Under the new guidelines just released from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), individuals who prior to the report would have been told their blood pressure was normal or high normal should now be informed that they actually have a condition called prehypertension. The new category was included in "The Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure." This marks the first time that the government?s experts have flagged relatively low readings as an indication of disease.
Prehypertension applies to ~22% of American adults, or 45 million people, whose blood pressure is 120 mm/Hg to 139 mm/Hg, systolic or 80 mm/Hg to 90 mm/Hg diastolic. Individuals with readings in this range do not yet have high blood pressure and do not require medication. The recommendations were based on studies indicating that artery damage and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease can start even at blood pressure levels that were once considered normal, according to the NHLBI. The report advises physicians and patients to take hypertension more seriously and treat it more aggressively, often with more than 1 drug.