Chances are, blood pressure isn't something that you think about all that often. But given that heart disease is the number one cause of death for women in the U.S., it's important to start paying attention to your heart health — especially now that according to new guidelines, you may actually have high blood pressure.
On Monday, the American Heart Association released new guidelines that redefine what qualifies as high blood pressure. Now, a reading of 130 as the top number and 80 as the bottom number is considered stage one high blood pressure (the previous standard for stage one was 140/90). A reading of 140/90 now reads as stage two of high blood pressure, in which doctors will recommend that patients make lifestyle changes, along with recommending two classes of medicine and monthly followups until blood pressure is controlled.
Under the update, the first in 14 years, 46% of Americans will now be considered to have high blood pressure, compared to 32% under the previous guidelines.
"We're recognizing that blood pressures that we in the past thought were normal or so-called pre-hypertensive actually placed the patient at significant risk for heart disease and death and disability," Robert M. Carey, co-chairman of the group that produced the new report, told the Washington Post. "The risk hasn't changed. What's changed is our recognition of the risk."
The new guidelines, researchers said, were put in place to help people take steps to control their blood pressure earlier, hopefully before it puts them at risk for heart disease. Though heart disease may be something that we think of happening only to older people, it's important to try to keep your blood pressure healthy to avoid problems later in life.
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