In a major shift in medical guidelines, the new blood pressure baseline has been changed to 130/80 from 140/90.

The new guidelines were announced Monday at the American Heart Association’s annual scientific sessions and published in Hypertension and the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

According to the definition of what constitutes high, that now means that nearly half of U.S. adults have high blood pressure.

The new guidelines also mean that 103 million people — about 14 percent more than under the old definition — need to make diet and exercise changes and, in some cases, take medication to lower their risk of heart attack or stroke.

“It’s very clear that lower is better,” Paul Whelton of Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans, lead author of the guidelines, said Tuesday at a news conference. “Previous studies have linked low blood pressure with low risk of cardiovascular disease.”

A blood pressure reading measures the systolic pressure, or how much force the blood places on the walls of the arteries when the heart beats, and the diastolic pressure, the same force but when the heart rests between beats.

Whelton said the updated recommendations “will improve the cardiovascular health of our adult community in the United States.”

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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