AHA Releases New Guidelines on High Blood Pressure, Tulane's Whelton Lead Author

Announced on Monday, Nov. 13 in Anaheim, California at The American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions were new guidelines for detection, prevention, management, and treatment of high blood pressure.

Paul K. Whelton, MB, MD, MSc, of Global Public Health at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, pictured here,  served as the lead author of the guidelines.

The guidelines will dramatically change the way we look at blood pressure. Already in New Orleans, there are currently 33% of adults (31% of adults in Baton Rouge) who have been told that they have high blood pressure. With these new guidelines the number of those affected is expected to rise to include about half of the population. Previously, it was one in three individuals.

High blood pressure is now considered any measurement at or above 130 systolic or 80 diastolic. (Systolic is the term for the top number; diastolic is the term for the bottom number.) High blood pressure used to be defined as readings at or above 140 systolic or 90 diastolic.

The guideline committee moved away from the term “prehypertension” because the data show the risk for heart attack, stroke, and other consequences of high blood pressure begins to occur at any level above 120 mmHg. Heart disease and stroke risk is doubled at 130/80, compared to blood pressure below 120/80.

These new guidelines will change the way blood pressure is treated. Nearly half of those who do have high blood pressure do not have it under control. Uncontrolled high blood pressure, or hypertension, is a disease and can have deadly health consequences if not treated. Those consequences can be heart attack, stroke, heart failure, kidney disease or failure, and more.

The American Heart Association encourages everyone to know their blood pressure levels and to reduce their numbers, and risk, to help live a healthier and stronger life. The new lowered guidelines are a step to better control this "the silent killer".

High blood pressure has no symptoms, so one may not be aware that it's damaging arteries, the heart, and other organs. Take a few minutes to have your blood pressure checked at your doctor’s office, at a blood pressure machine located at many local pharmacies, or by using a home monitoring device.

At age 50, total life expectancy is about five years longer for people with normal blood pressure than for people with hypertension, or high blood pressure.