A new description of hypertensionhas been proposed by a writinggroup for the American Societyof Hypertension (ASH). This definitionwould expand the current definitionbeyond high blood pressureto include overall cardiovascular(CV) risk and incorporate the conceptthat an elevated blood pressurereading may not be the causeof hypertension, but rather aneffect of it.
The definition characterizeshypertension as a progressive CVsyndrome with many causes thatresult in both structural and functionalchanges to the CV system.Therefore, early stages can beginbefore elevated blood pressuredevelops, and these stages can goon to damage the heart, brain, kidneys,and other organs, oftenresulting in morbidity and earlydeath. As in the previous federalguidelines, the definition includesstaging of hypertension, but now itcalculates this not only on bloodpressure measurements, but otherindicators of CV risk, such asorgan damage.
The writing group hopes that thenew definition will improve thediagnosis and treatment of hypertensionin the future, and they urgephysicians and researchers toapply this new understanding ofhypertension to help reduce therisk of CV damage to their patients.