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New Definition of High Blood Pressure Means Half of Us Have It


America's top heart doctors broadened the definition of high blood pressure Monday.  Under the new guidelines, almost half of all American adults have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, one of the leading causes of death from heart disease and stroke.

High blood pressure can be controlled with medication and lifestyle changes.  Weight loss is likely the most effective way to reduce blood pressure without the use of drugs.  Even a weight loss of ten pounds can put people in the healthy range.  Exercise is also an ideal way to reduce blood pressure. 

Eating a healthy diet by avoiding processed foods and sugar and embracing vegetables also goes a long way towards healthy blood pressure. 

Also, avoiding alcohol and cigarettes can help reduce blood pressure.

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.  This means the newly classified patients with hypertension will have the least severe type: Stage 1 hypertension. 

"Our best estimate is that antihypertensive drug therapy, in addition to lifestyle change, will only be necessary in about 20 percent of those with Stage 1 hypertension," said Dr. Paul Whelton, epidemiology professor at Tulane University's School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.  He chaired the writing committee that updated the new guidelines.

Whelton said drugs can be avoided with simple changes in lifestyle.

"I'm not saying it's easy for anyone to change their lifestyle; anyone who says that is either naïve or disingenuous," he said. "But we can encourage and facilitate the process. We want to help the public make sensible choices."

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