Today, millions of Americans who didn't have high blood pressure before have it now. This is the first time the definition for hypertension has changed in 14 years. Now 103 million people will have high blood pressure.
Based on new guidelines from the American Heart Association and other health groups, 130 over 80 is the number that means you have high blood pressure. That reading has historically been considered normal. But now, it's stage 1 hypertension, and it means 46 percent of U.S. adults, many of them under the age of 45, have the disease.
"So do people need to run out and get medication right now? The short answer is no," Dr. Sam Aznaurov, cardiologist at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center, said.
Dr. Aznaurov said the only way people in this range would have to start medication is if they have another underlying cardiac disease. Your risk doesn't change either. Instead, it's a wake up call. "
"I'm looking at this as more of the start of a formal conversation," Dr. Aznaurov says. "Saying, 'Hey maybe you should get a blood pressure cuff at home and start monitoring that blood pressure and bring in those numbers for us to review together at your next visit.'"
The lower score is expected to triple the number of younger men considered hypertensive and double the number of younger women with high blood pressure. So if not medication, what can you do? Doctors say make lifestyle changes. For starters, cutting back on salt, carbs, tobacco and alcohol.
Dr. Aznaurov says, "It's weight loss, exercise. It's getting plenty of sleep. It's treating underlying related conditions." If successful, the study's authors say these things can significantly lower your numbers, and risk of heart attack and stroke.
"The bottom line is that yeah we really do really see visible results with those changes," Dr. Aznaurov says.
Under the new guidelines normal blood pressure will be considered anything less than 120 over 80.