On Nov. 13, a panel of leading health care associations, including the American Heart Association, published new criteria for classifying high blood pressure, the first such change since 2003. Instead of saying that a reading of 140/90 mmHg—i.e. the pressure in your vessels as the heart is pumping over the pressure between beats—high blood pressure will now be defined as 130/80. (Normal blood pressure is considered under 120/80.)Previously, roughly 32% of Americans (73 million) were considered to have high blood pressure. Now that jumps to 46%, or 103 million people. The change doubles the number of women with high blood pressure and triples the number of men, according to the AP.
The new guidelines aren’t meant to suggest that anyone with newly-identified high blood pressure should start taking medication. Instead, they are intended to prevent people from waiting until their blood pressure is high to begin making lifestyle changes that could reduce their risk of heart attack.