Until recently, if your blood pressure was 140/90 or higher, you were considered to have hypertension (high blood pressure), and your healthcare provider likely would recommend treatment with lifestyle changes and/or blood pressure medication. Times have changed, however. In November 2017, the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and the American Heart Association revised their guidelines for diagnosing and treating hypertension.
The new guidelines recommend that persons with a blood pressure of 130/80 or higher be treated with lifestyle changes and, in some cases, with medication—meaning that nearly half of the adult U.S. population is now considered to have high blood pressure. Younger people are particularly impacted by the new guidelines, with many who were previously grouped in the normal range now considered to be hypertensive to some degree. The reason for the change, according to the ACC, is to encourage earlier medical intervention to address and prevent certain complications that can occur in some patients on the lower end of the new range.
Revised categories under the new guidelines are as follows (all numbers are in mmHg):
Normal: systolic pressure of less than 120 AND diastolic pressure of less than 80
Elevated:systolic of 120-129 AND diastolic of less than 80
Stage 1: systolic of 130-139 OR diastolic of 80-89
Stage 2: systolic of at least 140 OR diastolic of at least 90
Hypertensive Crisis:systolic of more than 180 AND/OR diastolic of more than 120
The “prehypertension” category is no longer in use. People who previously fell into that category are now classified as either Elevated or Stage 1.
Untreated high blood pressure can lead to heart attack and heart failure, stroke, vision loss and kidney failure. Keep a close watch on your blood pressure, and talk to your physician about what these new guidelines mean for you.
What Do the Numbers Mean?
Measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg), blood pressure is an indication of the amount of force or pressure your blood exerts on your arteries as it circulates throughout your body. The top number is your systolic pressure, or the pressure that results when your heart beats. The lower number, your diastolic pressure, is the pressure that exists while your heart rests between beats.