January 2018

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Experts Lower “High” Blood Pressure Numbers

You probably get your blood pressure checked every time you go to the doctor. Having high blood pressure increases your chances of heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease, and other serious health problems.

After studying the results from hundreds of studies, experts recently changed the definition of high blood pressure.

Blood pressure is measured in two numbers, like 120/80 mm Hg. The first number is the pressure that the heart uses to push blood through your arteries. The second number is the pressure when the heart is at rest between beats. Normal blood pressure for an adult is below 120/80.

NIH-sponsored research played an important role in providing evidence that the definition of high blood pressure should be changed. Before the guideline changed in November, the definition of high blood pressure was 140/90. Now, high blood pressure is defined as 130 or higher for the first number, or 80 or higher for the second number.

If you have high blood pressure, your doctor may suggest changes to your diet and physical activity. If lifestyle changes don’t work, medicines can help.

“Only about half the people in the country who have high blood pressure are controlled to recommended levels,” says NIH heart disease expert Dr. David C. Goff, Jr. “We could prevent a lot more heart attacks and strokes if more people had their blood pressure well controlled.”