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An additional 30 million U.S. adults will now be considered hypertensive

A patient has her blood pressure checked by a registered nurse. New medical guidelines lower the threshold for high blood pressure, adding 30 million Americans to those who have the condition. Photo: Toby Talbot / AP

For the first time in 14 years, top health experts have lowered the bar for adults who are categorized as hypertensive, per the Washington Post.

Why it matters: The change means that 30 million more U.S. adults, many of whom are under the age of 45, will now be considered hypertensive — a sharp increase from recent years. Doctors hope the move will help motivate people to address their risk-level sooner, and bring heightened awareness to one of the leading causes of death in the U.S.

Key details: The American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology, and nine other groups lowered the standard for high blood pressure from 140 over 90 to 130 over 80. They also created new defining categories, including "elevated," "Stage 1 and 2 hypertension," and "hypertensive crisis." Normal blood pressure still will be considered 120 over 80.

Why the change? Robert M. Carey, co-chairman of the group that produced the new report, said that blood pressures that were previously thought of as "normal" or "pre-hypertensive" actually placed patients "at significant risk for heart disease and death and disability." He added, "The risk hasn't changed. What's changed is our recognition of the risk."

What's new: The report's authors predict that relatively few U.S. adults that fall into the new hypertensive category will need medication. Instead, they hope patients will now be able to catch the condition early enough that they can address it through better eating, exercise, and other lifestyle changes.