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BRITT | The nation’s heart experts recently altered the guidelines for high blood pressure, a change that will sharply increase the number of adults considered hypertensive.

"The hope, I believe, is to have more people address this potentially deadly disease in earlier stages where it may be able to be managed by lifestyle changes more than with medication," said Ami Frohling, ARNP, Director of HCHS Heart and Vascular Center.

Acting for the first time in 14 years, the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology redefined high blood pressure as a reading of 130 over 80, down from 140 over 90. The change means that 46 percent of U.S. adults, many of them under the age of 45, now will be considered hypertensive. Under the previous guideline, 32 percent of U.S. adults had high blood pressure.

Frohling found that many people with the early stages of hypertension may be able to address it through lifestyle changes such as:

• Maintain a healthy weight. Even a 10 pound weight loss can lower blood pressure.

• Reduce sodium intake to less than 1500 mg a day.

• Follow the DASH diet for healthy eating.

• Increase potassium intake.

• Log 90-150 minutes per week of exercise.

• Limit alcohol intake, never more than 2 a day; not more than 3 days of the week.

In addition to changing the classification of high blood pressure, the new report also does away with the old category of “pre-hypertension,” which was defined as a top (systolic) reading of 120 to 139 or a bottom (diastolic) number between 80 and 89.

Instead, the guidelines create new categories of blood pressure, including “elevated,” “Stage 1 and 2 hypertension,” and “hypertensive crisis,” each characterized by various blood pressure readings. Normal blood pressure still will be considered 120 over 80.

If you have concerns about your heart or vascular health, call the HCHs Heart and Vascular Center at 641-843-5050.

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