The American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology issued new guidelines for high blood pressure that will include millions more Americans who meet the criteria to be considered at risk of complications from the condition. Most of the people considered newly hypertensive, will include about 46 percent of adults, or 103.3 million people compared to 32 percent under the previous definition. Most of those affected by the new guidelines are younger according to the authors.  The number of men under age 45 who will be considered newly hypertensive will triple, and the number of women under the age of 45 will double for the condition.  Most of these individuals will be encouraged to change their lifestyles or take medicine to treat it. The new guidelines were established to help people take steps at a younger age to keep their blood pressure under control.

“Yes we will label more people hypertensive and give more medication, but we will save lives and money by preventing strokes, cardiovascular events and kidney failure,” said Kenneth Jamerson, M.D., Ph.D., professor of internal medicine and hypertension specialist at the University of Michigan Health System. He is one of the 21 experts who were on the committee that designed the new guidelines.  “If you are going to put money into the healthcare system, it’s to everyone’s advantage if we treat and prevent on this side of it, in early treatment.”

Traditionally, hypertension or high blood pressure has been defined as 140/90 and above for the measurement of systolic blood and diastolic blood pressure.  Currently about 72 million people have high blood pressure under the previous standard.  High blood pressure or hypertension is a serious health condition that can lead to heart attacks, strokes, or kidney failure and is second only to smoking as a preventable condition that leads to heart disease if left untreated.

The new guidelines will now define high blood pressure as a reading of 130/80 and above. An optimal high blood pressure reading would be below a reading of 120/80. The systolic number measures the pressure on blood vessels when the heart contracts, while the diastolic measures blood pressure as the heart relaxes between beats.

Source: American Heart Association News, “Nearly half of U.S adults could now be classified with high blood pressure, under new definitions”

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