13 Dec Take That Scary Hypertension News With a Grain of Salt
Since worry can increase your blood pressure, it’s counterproductive to fret about the alarming headlines declaring that hypertension now affects half of all Americans, including about 80 percent of those over 65. The numbers don’t reflect a sudden decline in the public’s health; instead, health authorities have expanded the definition of hypertension so it now includes some 30 million more people. And yet despite this dramatic shift, surprisingly little has changed in the scientific understanding of hypertension, or in what your doctor is likely to recommend.
The news, announced this week, was that the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology have just lowered the bar for high systolic blood pressure (which is the top number). It used to be 140, and now it’s 130. While the New York Times announced that now tens of millions of Americans will “need” to lower their blood pressure, the health police are unlikely to arrest you for a reading of 131. A better phrasing might have been that tens of millions more people might benefit from lowering their blood pressure — but many of those people already knew that.
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