Cardiologist explains new high blood pressure guidelines

NORFOLK, VA - Millions more Americans meet the criteria for a high blood pressure diagnosis under new guidelines from the American Heart Association.  However, a local cardiologist tells News 3 it is not meant to encourage doctors to over prescribe for the condition.

“This is meant to raise awareness, not necessarily start [pharmaceutical] therapy early, but to say you have a blood pressure issue, you need to make some lifestyle changes, dietary changes, exercise, sodium reduction and start seeing a doctor,” said cardiologist Dr. Shon Chakrabarti, board president for the Hampton Roads Chapter of the American Heart Association.

The new guidelines define high blood pressure with a reading of 130/80 or higher.  Previously, AHA guidelines considered it pre-hypertension.

“The science is telling us that people are at risk of cardiovascular complications of high blood pressure even at levels of 130/80 or above,” said Chakrabarti.

According to the American Heart Association, nearly half of U.S. adults could now be classified with high blood pressure, putting them at greater risk for heart disease and stroke.  AHA officials say the change means 46 percent of American adult now have hypertension, compared to 32 percent under the previous guidelines.  This is the AHA’s first comprehensive guideline change for blood pressure in more than a decade.