Nearly half of Americans at risk for high blood pressure due to new guidelines

High blood pressure is 100 percent preventable, yet it's often caught too late.

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – High blood pressure is 100 percent preventable, yet it’s often caught too late. It’s known as the silent killer. High blood pressure, left untreated, can cause heart attack, stroke, or death. Now, the American Heart Association has lowered what it considers to be “high blood pressure” from 140 over 90 to 130 over 80. That means nearly half of American adults are at risk of hypertension – a statistic that’s surprising to many people.

Chicopee resident Jim Denno joked about his reaction to the news: “My blood pressure went up.” He also said he monitors his blood pressure but has never had a problem.

Kidding aside, cardiologists hope this new guideline will help people work to lower their blood pressure below 130, and ideally below 120. Baystate Medical Center Cardiologist Dr. Heba Wassif said this doesn’t mean more people will be prescribed medication, but they’ll have the chance to make lifestyle changes first. She said for every 1 kilogram of weight lost, there’s a 1 millimeter drop of mercury in the blood pressure reading. She said there’s a similar correlation with a drop in salt intake. Dr. Wassif added, “We should be screening a bit earlier than we do and it affects all ages and all races. Everybody is prone to hypertension.”

There are some ways to try lowering your blood pressure without resorting to taking a pill every day. Some of those are losing weight, quitting smoking, and reducing any extra stress in your life.

“I exercise a lot and I notice after exercising, your blood pressure goes down. But I think a lot of it is heriditary, there’s just some things you can’t do, but some things you shouldn’t do,” Frank Ludwig of Chicopee told 22News.

The American Heart Association also suggests eating more foods high in potassium, like sweet potatoes and butternut squash, as well as lowering sodium intake.