The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology recently changed the official guidelines for diagnosing high blood pressure. These guidelines lower the definition of high blood pressure, which means that many more Americans will be both diagnosed with high blood pressure and treated with medication. That being said, it is still important to manage high blood pressure with lifestyle changes such as diet, exercise, and stress management. Under these new guidelines, nearly half of the U.S. adult population will have high blood pressure, according to the American College of Cardiology. The “prehypertension” stage has been eliminated, so patients will now fall under normal blood pressure, elevated blood pressure, stage 1 hypertension, 2 hypertension, or hypertensive crisis, which requires immediate medical attention. Primary Health Network’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. George Garrow, believes that the new guidelines will help healthcare providers treat patients earlier before complications occur. He states, “In the past, physicians considered minimally-elevated blood pressure levels as “pre-hypertension” and commonly adopted an approach of “keeping an eye” on the patient’s blood pressure. Over time, we’ve learned that even a mild increase in blood pressure could lead to complications, such as heart attack, stroke and kidney disease. Now that the guidelines have changed, and the target blood pressure lowered from 140/90 to 130/80, many health care providers are now able to intervene earlier and hopefully avoid some of the consequences of unrecognized and untreated hypertension. Medications may not always be necessary to achieve the new target. Rather, lifestyle interventions such as exercise, diet modifications and reducing alcohol consumption may help patients reach goal. The earlier we have these conversations with patients, the better.”Having your blood pressure checked at every doctor’s appointment is important because most of the time, people with high blood pressure don’t experience any symptoms. Your doctor can work with you to determine what changes you can make to lower your blood pressure, which may include taking medication. If you have any concerns about your blood pressure and the new guidelines, be sure to talk to your doctor at your next appointment.