As of Monday, 30 million more Americans now suffer from high blood pressure.
That’s according to new guidelines issued by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, which state that 130/80 mm Hg or higher now constitutes high blood pressure, or hypertension. The prior standard, which hadn’t been revised since 2003, was 140/90 mm HG. A reading of less than 120/80 mm HG is defined as the new normal.
The changes were implemented by a team of cardiovascular experts, who reviewed more than 1,000 studies, with one particular landmark report proving the most influential. In a 2015 study from the National Institutes of Health, more than 93,000 men and women 50 years and older who were at high risk of cardiac arrest were divided into two groups. One was tasked with lowering their systolic pressure (the first number, which measures the blood pressure when your heart pulses) to below 120, the other, to below 140. In doing so, the first group saw a one-third reduction in heart attack, heart failure and stroke, and a one-fourth reduced risk of death.
High blood pressure increases the risk of heart disease and stroke, which are two of the leading causes of death for Americans, according to the CDC.
Luckily, you can lower your blood pressure by making lifestyle changes, such as exercising regularly, cutting down on alcohol consumption, quitting smoking, reducing stress and following a heart-healthy diet. You can also take prescription blood pressure medication to help keep it in check, although certain blood pressure lowering drugs are associated with an increased risk of kidney failure.