130/80+ is the new hypertension — and that is bad news for millions of Nigerians

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If your blood pressure is 130/80 and you have been feeling safe, the latest guidelines from the American Heart Association (AHA) will give you high blood pressure.

For decades, a measurement of 140/90 mmHG has been the standard to define pre- and borderline hypertension.

Anything below that and you walk away with a caution on sedentary lifestyle and diet.

Anything above and you get medications that may make you pass water more often than not.

But AHA on Monday changed the definition of hypertension by reviewing the measurement downward to 130/80 mmHg.

Since 1993, the upper threshold has been 140, but a major study in 2015 found heart risks were much lower in people who aimed for 120.

Canada and Australia lowered their threshold to 120.

Europe is still at 140 but is due to revise its own in 2018, but Nigeria maintains 140/90 in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines which may also change soon in line with latest research findings.

More than half of Nigerian adults will be classified as hypertensive under the new AHA guidelines, which no longer have “pre-hypertension”.

WHAT IS HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE?

  • Blood pressure is the force exerted by the blood against the walls of the blood vessels. How great the pressure is depends on the work being done by the heart and the resistance of the blood vessels. High blood pressure often has no symptoms (it is called “the silent killer”) and can cause heart attacks, strokes and sudden deaths. Many sufferers suddenly slump and die or die during sleep. Read more

On World Hypertension Day 2017, it was revealed by experts that about 45% of Nigerian adults are at different stages of hypertension.

And that was when it was defined as 190/40.

When AHA announced the new threshold on Monday, the percentage of US adults living with high blood pressure instantly rose from 32 percent to 46 percent.

Young people felt the impact the most — the hypertension figure for men under 45 tripled and doubled for women in the same age category.

The new guidelines are coming after years of research which proved that people with less than 140/90 doubled their risk of cardiovascular problems.

“I have no doubt there will be controversy. I’m sure there will be people saying ‘We have a hard enough time getting to 140,’” said Dr. Paul Whelton, a Tulane University physician who led the guidelines panel.

He said the risk for heart disease, stroke and other problems drops as blood pressure improves, and that the new advice is more honest about how many people have a problem.

THE NEW CHANGES

Normal: Under 120/80
Elevated: Top number 120-129/80
Stage 1: Top of 130-139 or bottom of 80-89
Stage 2: Top at least 140 or bottom at least 90

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