Blood pressure: 130 is the new high

When it comes to blood pressure, 130 is the new high.

After more than a decade, the American Heart Association announced on Monday new blood pressure guidelines. And those new guidelines mean rather than one-third of American adults having high blood pressure, nearly half of adults will carry the diagnosis.

Under those new guidelines, high blood pressure is now defined as 130 mm Hg or higher for systolic blood pressure (top number) or readings of 80 or higher for the diastolic measurement (bottom number). That’s a change from the old guidelines of 140/90 and higher.

“By lowering the definition of high blood pressure, the guidelines recommend earlier intervention to prevent further increases in blood pressure and the complications of hypertension,” according to the heart association.

While the change will mean another 14 percent of adults will be diagnosed with high blood pressure, there will be only a small increase in the number of people who need medication to manage it, according to the heart association.

The impact of the new guidelines is expected to be greatest among younger people. The prevalence is expected to triple among men younger than 45 and double among women younger than 45, according to the heart association.

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

Here are the new blood pressure categories:

  • Normal: Less than 120/80 mm Hg
  • Elevated: Systolic (top number) of 120-129 and diastolic (bottom) less than 80.
  • Stage 1 hypertension: Systolic of 130-139 or diastolic of 80-89.
  • Stage 2 hypertension: Systolic of at least 140 or diastolic of at least 90.
  • Hypertensive crisis: Systolic higher than 180 and/or diastolic higher than 120.

The new guidelines eliminate the “prehypertension” category, which was systolic of 120-139 or diastolic of 80-89.

Marissa Harshman

Marissa Harshman

I'm the health reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. I started at The Columbian -- my hometown newspaper -- in September 2009. Reach me at or 360-735-4546.

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