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Half Of US Adults Have High Blood Pressure In New Guidelines

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — For the first time in more than a decade, the American Heart Association is changing the guidelines for what's considered high blood pressure. It covers a lot more people, which means millions more face an increased risk for heart disease.

New guidelines lower the threshold for high blood pressure, adding 30 million Americans to those who have the condition, which now plagues nearly half of U.S. adults.

Charles Cronenweth has been working to lower his blood pressure for the last 10 years. With the new guidelines, tens of millions of additional Americans will soon be learning they have hypertension.

The American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology are now defining a top reading of 130 or more or a bottom reading of 80 or more as high blood pressure.

The old definition of high was 140 over 90.

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"Most of them just need to know they are at high risk, but they can manage that problem on their own, they are empowered to improve their lifestyle," Dr. Paul Whelton, leader author of the AHA/ACA guidelines.

This change is expected to have the biggest impact on men and women who are under the age of 45.

"They would have to exercise more, have a better diet -- a diet that is low in sodium, restrict alcohol and lower stress," Dr. Ravi Dave, a cardiologist, said.

Under the new guidelines, 120 or less is still normal blood pressure.

But up to 129 is considered elevated, and at 130, there will now be different stages of high blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart attacked and strokes.

"Preventing hypertension is much better than getting hypertension," Dr. Whelton said. "It's good to treat it when it's there, but it is way better to prevent it."

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Cronenweth says he checks his blood pressure every day plus, he tries "to eat a heart healthy diet and exercise three or four times a week."

Doctors say more Americans will need to follow his footsteps.

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