The American Heart Association recently updated blood pressure guidelines for the first time in 14 years. Under the new guidelines, more people than ever are considered as having high blood pressure. Last year CBS 19 reported heart disease kills over 4,000 people in Northeast Texas, a figure that's 33 percent higher than the rest of the state. Learn the new guidelines to make sure you're not at risk.

What's Different About New Blood Pressure Guidelines?

The old blood pressure guidelines set the hypertension threshold at 140/90 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) for people under 65 years old and 150/80 mm Hg for everyone over 65. If you were over those numbers for your age, you were considered to have high blood pressure and your doctor probably recommended intervention through lifestyle changes, medication or both.

According to the new guidelines, if you have systolic (the pressure when your heart actually beats) readings over 130 or diastolic (the pressure in vessels when your heart rests between beats) readings higher than 80, you have hypertension.

Previously, hypertension was broken into prehypertension (when systolic readings were between 120 and 139 and diastolic numbers were in the 80-89 range), stage 1 and stage 2. Now there's no such thing as hypertension. If you're over 130/80, you have high blood pressure. Here's a breakdown:

  • Normal -- Below 120/80 mm Hg
  • Elevated -- Systolic between 120-129 and diastolic below 80
  • Stage 1 Hypertension -- Systolic from 130-139 and/or diastolic from 80-89
  • Stage 2 -- Systolic 140 or higher and/or diastolic of 90 or more
  • Hypertensive crisis -- Anything higher than the above, patients need immediate medication adjustment and potentially hospitalization.

Whether or not physicians recommend medication has also changed. Where under the old guidelines your doctor recommended treatment based just on your blood pressure, the AHA encourages healthcare professionals to also recommend medication based on a risk calculator.

Why The Changes?

Hypertension is called the "silent killer" because it has no symptoms. The AHA updated guidelines to treat blood pressure earlier, help individuals obtain a correct diagnosis and avoid the risks that come with untreated high blood pressure.

Under the old guidelines, around one in three Americans had high blood pressure. Now that number is estimated to be around 46 percent. The AHA hopes to encourage healthy lifestyle change, help individuals reduce their risk of heart disease and save lives.

East Texans At Risk

UT Health conducted a study on The Health Status of Northeast Texas released in 2017 that evaluated Region 4/5, an area that includes Tyler, Longview, Palestine and Nacogdoches. They found age-adjusted mortality rates in the area were higher than the rest of the state and looked at possible reasons for the disparity.

The report said area residents had risk factors like obesity, physical inactivity and irregular health care, but area data was similar to what others reported across the state. What was different is tobacco use in East Texas.

One in four adults in the region used tobacco according to the report, compared to 15 percent of Texas overall. The population is also somewhat older, and some communities have a larger proportion of residents below the poverty level.

Lower Your Risk of High Blood Pressure

The guidelines may have changed, but the ways to reduce your risk hasn't. Prevent and treat high blood pressure by doing the following:

  • Stay within a healthy weight range.
  • Don't use tobacco.
  • Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein. Avoid fried, fatty foods high in sodium.
  • Exercise between 90 and 150 minutes every week.
  • If you drink alcohol, know what's a moderate amount for your gender.