Will new blood pressure guidelines cost Americans?

The guidelines were presented at the heart association's annual Scientific Sessions in Anaheim, Calif.

Millions of Americans are being told to look at their numbers after the American Heart Association (AHA), American College of Cardiology and nine other health professional organizations gave a major overhaul to blood pressure guidelines.

Patients with blood pressure of 130/80 would now be diagnosed with hypertension or abnormally high blood pressure.

Dr Paul Chiam, a cardiologist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, said it is good for people to know the importance of strict blood pressure control "as we know that better BP control does lead to fewer strokes, heart and kidney disease".

The AHA says the new guidelines are created to help people address the potentially deadly condition much earlier.

Gandhi described the new guidelines as "sound" and "a long time coming".

Almost half of the U.S adult population is now considered to have high blood pressure. The Association now generally recommends that patients with Stage 1 hypertension only be prescribed medication in the event of a heart attack or stroke, and they're also recommending that pharmaceutical companies combine multiple blood pressure drugs. There are no obvious symptoms, which is why it is often called, "the silent killer".

Instead of just one reading in the doctor's office, the new guidelines emphasize an average of readings over several visits, plus home blood pressure readings.

"The earlier we treat the blood pressure though, the greater the protection from future heart attacks".

"I think the goal of the new guidelines is to get blood pressure on the radar for those at-risk patients, to make the diagnosis, to get them to do some lifestyle changes".

High blood pressure is now defined as readings of 130 over 80 or higher, a change from the old definition of 140 over 90.

The AHA estimates that among stage 1 hypertensives, only one in five may need medication to lower blood pressure.

Vanessa Coleman