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Millions of Americans may be shocked to learn that they have high blood pressure according to the latest guidelines from the nation’s cardiologists. The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology collaborated in establishing new criteria for hypertension. These were presented on Nov. 13, 2017, at the American Heart Association annual meeting and published in both Hypertension and the Journal of the American College of Cardiology

Previous guidelines urged doctors to treat patients whose blood pressure measured 140/90 or higher. The first and higher number is systolic blood pressure: the pressure within the vascular system when the heart is squeezing blood through it. The second number, diastolic blood pressure, is the pressure remaining while the heart relaxes between beats. Under the new criteria, blood pressure at or above 130/80 is defined as high blood pressure. Most people at that measurement will need to take steps to reduce it.

Why the Change In Defining High Blood Pressure?

The lower threshold appears to flow from a study called SPRINT that was published two years ago. It showed clearly that people who were able to lower their systolic blood pressure close to 120 were 25 percent less likely to have a heart attack or a stroke. In absolute terms, the difference did not look enormous: 1.65 percent of those getting systolic blood pressure down near 120 had a cardiovascular complication compared to 2.19 percent of those whose systolic blood pressure was lowered only to 140. Still, when you consider how many millions of us (approximately 103 million) have blood pressure at or above 130/80, a little difference can add up to an awful lot of people. Avoiding a heart attack or stroke will be a huge benefit for them.

What Will the New Guidelines Mean for You?

The new guidelines will urge treatment for anyone whose ten-year risk of a heart attack or stroke is 10 percent or more. That will include most people over 65, whose age alone puts them at risk of problems within the next decade. But younger people with additional risk factors such as diabetes or kidney disease will also qualify for antihypertensive treatment.

Measuring Blood Pressure:

Doctors and nurses may have to change the techniques they use to measure blood pressure at an office visit. The new guidelines recommend that patients be given at least five minutes of rest time before the measurement is made. No decisions are to be made on a single measurement; at least two, from two different office visits, are required for diagnosis. And patients are encouraged to monitor their own blood pressure at home. (You can find more information on proper blood pressure measurement technique here.)

What Should You Do About High Blood Pressure?

Not everyone who meets the definition of hypertension will need medication immediately, but no doubt many people will. It is possible to lower blood pressure without drugs, but it requires diligence and effort: exercise, meditation and a DASH diet with plenty of vegetables and fruits can work. To learn more about how to lower your blood pressure naturally, as well as the pros and cons of blood pressure pills, you may wish to read our Guide to Blood Pressure Treatment.

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  1. David
    North Carolina

    While I can agree with many of the sentiments expressed above, as a holistic health practitioner I understand the sad fact that many people with HBP or any other adverse health issue could dramatically improve their condition with basic lifestyle changes… and won’t.

    Too many want to take a pill of some kind to “fix” the problem, even though pharmaceuticals generally treat symptoms rather than root causes. Folks who are willing to do pretty basic and generally easy things for themselves tend to do much better. And there is the important factor of feeling as though they really have a good measure of control over their health outcomes.

  2. Al

    When I have my BP taken, I wait as long as 15 minutes. Then take 4 deep breaths, stop talking, and do more deep breathing. The BP taken is much lower than when I first enter a doctor’s office. The last 2 were 126/68 and 118/62. These were taken in the morning and afternoon, but not the same day and not by the same dr.

    A friend of mine tried this method, and her pressure went from 180/84 to 124/84.

  3. Hanna

    M.y confusion comes from the numbers I get after measurement of my bp using wrist apparatus. What to think when the resuls are for example:145/ 67.
    142/70, 139/69, 124/61, 115/64 or 127/80.
    So what is the problem?
    At dr office the bp went up to 180/89 one time. It was when I had a cold in January.
    Any idea what is going on?

  4. Roger
    Lake, Mi

    After a routine visit to my family doctor I found out my blood pressure was moderately high. Being the type of person that doesn’t trust “Big Pharma” I set out to find a natural way to control my blood pressure. I discovered that olive leaf extract does exactly that. After two weeks of taking this supplement my blood pressure dropped 20 points. Since then my BP has been remaining around 125/75. Beet juice has worked for me as well but it’s easier and less expensive taking the olive leaf extract.

  5. Tony

    I think there are alternatives to prescription B/P medications…
    A friend had trouble with Lisinopril, and several other “prils” he had taken, and finally ended up using a ‘garlic’ type pill to lower his B/P.

    I’ve read that Beet Juice can lower B/P….Also I’m currently taking 1000 Mlg x 2 a day of L-Arginine with does a good job of getting my B/P down to their current recommended levels.

    It’s only thru avenues like ‘People Pharmacy’ that we can learn of these alternatives, because there is NO research from drug companies to support any claims that these alternatives may or may not work.

    Drug trials, use the experience of people to determine the efficacy of selected Pharmaceutical drugs.

    Isn’t that what the respondents do here at “The Peoples Pharmacy” ????
    Report on Pharmaceutical drugs and alternatives ???

  6. Nancy
    Lost Angeles, CA


    I would urge everyone to read “Culture & Medicine,” by L. Payer before starting prescription pills for blood pressure. This amazing book deals with the cultural creation of medical fact. Yes, medical “fact.”

    Many countries have higher levels of “normal” blood pressure, etc. than us and they are living longer than us!

    This is an old book, but I’ve never read anything like it. (The details from the book may have changed, but not the core truth.)

    Also, please read “Bitter Pills” and “On the Take” (by a M.D.).

    Finally, I’m curious to know who funded the study?

    I’m not saying the study is wrong, I havent even read it. I am just urging discernment and caution.

    Please forgive any formatting issues, typos, less than stellar writing, and lack of author names, I am, alas, just quickly on my phone.

    I have no personal or financial ties to any author mentioned.

    Good luck!


  7. Joan

    sounds like the drug companies have a hand in this!

  8. Rhonda P

    It doesn’t tell us why ppl get high blood pressure

  9. Bobby

    Why the change? Cha-ching, cha-ching.

  10. Anne
    Bakersfield, Ca.

    Being a cynic, one reason, I believe, for the lowering of the requirements is that the pharmaceutical companies aren’t making enough profit. Many people have naturally high blood pressure such as English people.

  11. Judy
    Eugene, Oregon

    I think all the rules regarding prescription drugs change every so often so Big Pharma can make more money. I also think sometimes the drugs are worse than the problem – one drug’s side effects then dictates another drug to cover up the offending symptoms of the first drug. No telling what all this is doing to your body.

    People need to do a whole lot of reading to understand what their body is doing and why and then proceed with caution. Most things can be solved without prescription drugs.

  12. Ellen C
    Dallas, Texas

    What do I think? I think this is another move to sell more pharmaceuticals and that the doctors, most of them , will be complicit. My blood pressure is high due to problems with the autonomic nervous system, and I suffer from a neuro-muscular problem that also causes urinary urge incontinence.

    I spent an entire summer 20 years ago in and out of the hospital before a blood pressure medication could be found that would even partially control my blood pressure. And I am allergic to almost every drug on the market. I take a mix of Norvasc ( brand name only) and clonidine. I have extremely poor balance and lowering my blood pressure would put me in a wheelchair!

    I am angry about these new guidelines because it will probably mean trying to find a new doctor because I am not going to add another blood pressure drug !

  13. GT

    I have never understood why blood pressure standards are the same for all.
    Surely a 6’4″ 224 lb male needs a considerably higher BP than a petite 5’4″ 110 lb female. The volume of blood varies doesn’t it; the distance the blood must be pumped varies, right? Yet the same standard is set for all. What am I missing?

  14. Antonio R

    These guidelines are not rational. Firstly, they focus on treatment in the symptom rather than on the underlying cause of hypertension; Second: the absolute risk reduction is 0.54 out of 100. This absolute risk falls within the margin of error of the statistic and should NEVER form the basis for any conclusion. The aggressive treatment that is proposed involves ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers, diuretics, etc. which have known side effects.

    In the end, the balance can be negative for the “patient” and this is never considered in the guidelines; Third: by considering that systolic pressure of 12 mm Hg is already prehypertension, will lead to millions of new drug users becoming clients of the major pharmaceutical companies, which as usual put reliable staff on the panels that define the guidelines.

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