ANAHEIM, Calif. — Nearly half of American adults will be diagnosed as having high blood pressure, according to new guidelines from the American Heart Association.

The new blood pressure definitions were unveiled globally on Monday during the AHA Scientific Sessions in Anaheim, California.

“I think we can do a really good job of spotting who is at risk now,” said Dr. Paul Welton, chair of the 2017 Hypertension Practice Guidelines, in a video message.

American Heart Association

This chart shows the changes made to the high blood pressure guidelines.

Having high blood pressure is now defined as having a reading of 130/80 mm Hg and higher. That’s a change from the old definition of 140/90 mm Hg and higher.

Here is breakdown of what the blood pressure categories look like now:

  • Normal: Less than 120/80 mm Hg
  • Elevated: Top number (systolic) between 120-129 and bottom number (diastolic) less than 80
  • Stage 1: Systolic between 130-139 or diastolic between 80-89
  • Stage 2: Systolic at least 140 or diastolic at least 90 mm Hg
  • Hypertensive crisis: Top number over 180 and/or bottom number over 120, with patients needing prompt changes in medication if there are no other indications of problems, or immediate hospitalization if there are signs of organ damage.

Currently, 40 percent of West Virginians have hypertension.

The new guidelines eliminate the category of prehypertension, which was used for blood pressures of 120-129 over 80-89. People with those readings will now be categorized as having Elevated, which is 120-129 and less than 80, or Stage I hypertension, which measures at 130-139 and 80-89.

Stage I hypertension was previously classified as 140/90. That level is now considered Stage 2 hypertension under the new definition.

According to the AHA, about 80 percent of West Virginians with hypertension are taking medication for it.

Hypertension was significantly higher in Mingo, Putnam, Taylor and Wayne counties compared to the entire State of West Virginia.

Right now, one in three U.S. adults have high blood pressure. The new definition means nearly half of Americans will be defined as having high blood pressure.

High blood pressure is expected to triple among men under age 45 and double among women under 45, according to the new guidelines.

Dr. Whelton said the new measurements recommend earlier intervention to prevent further increases in blood pressure.

“We do a better job at targeting those who need life style change on its own,” he said. “Helping them to work with their clinician to determine what is the best strategy for them to minimize that risk.”

High blood pressure can be caused by an unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity and the consumption of alcohol, to name a few.

Whelton said it’s important to know your blood pressure reading before managing it.

“Blood pressure is one of the most important risk factors for cardiovascular disease and we should know our blood pressure. We should know accurately what our blood pressure is,” he said.

To manage your blood pressure, Whelton suggests working with your doctor to address the cause of it.

“Is it lifestyle change? Improving your nutrition? Improving your physical activity or mederation of alcohol intake? Or do you need, in addition to that, a drug that will lower your blood pressure?” he said.

West Virginia leads the nation in heart disease and obesity, according to the AHA.

The guidelines are being published by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology for detection, prevention, management and treatment of high blood pressure.

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

bubble graphic

bubble graphic