Millions more of Americans may now have high blood pressure

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Under the new guidelines, 14% of more people will be diagnosed with high blood pressure, making almost half of American adults at risk for major health problems.

Before the new guidelines were published Monday in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the threshold for what is considered high blood pressure was 140/90. 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.

The normal limit for blood pressure is considered 120/80.

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

Adults with blood pressure of 130/80 "already have double the risk of heart attack compared to someone in the normal range", said Dr. Paul Whelton, professor at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and School of Medicine in New Orleans and lead author of the new guidelines.

The changes were announced at the American Heart Association's 2017 Scientific Sessions conference in Anaheim, California.

High blood pressure accounts for the second largest number of preventable heart disease and stroke deaths, second only to smoking.

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Though more people will need treatment, Jarvis says most of those newly defined as having high blood pressure will not need medication.

Doctors say make lifestyle changes.

"The prevalence of hypertension among USA adults is substantially higher when the definition in the present guideline is used versus the [older] definition (46% versus 32%)", the authors write.

Potentially deadly high blood pressure can be brought under control with a wide array of medications, many sold as relatively cheap generics.

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

"High blood pressure is called the silent killer because it usually has no signs or symptoms to go with it", says Dr. Calvin.

High blood pressure is caused when the force of blood pushing against vessel walls is too high.