For the first time in 14 years, new guidelines changed what's considered to be high blood pressure. That means a lot more of you are going to be impacted by what's called a "silent killer".
New guidelines released by the American Heart Associate define high blood pressure as a reading higher than 130 over 80. It used to be 140 over 90. Now, instead of one in three adult Americans being impacted, nearly half of all adults are considered to have high blood pressure.
"The goal is now to get more people on medication, but to get more people to modify their behavior," said Dr. Richard Benson, the Associate Medical Director of the Stroke Program at Medstar Washington Hospital Center.
Benson hopes the stricter definition will be a wake-up call for patients to take high blood pressure more seriously. It's a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, but doctors say improvements in diet and exercise can be very effective at lowering blood pressure.
"People that exercise for 20 to 30 minutes a day at least three times a week had a lower rate of cardiovaascular disease," said Dr. Benson. "People can exercise, start instituting a diet more similar to the Mediterranean diet.
If you're diagnosed with high blood pressure, it's also recommended you get a machine to check your blood pressure regularly at home. That can help you track any problems, and see that diet and exercise changes are making a difference.