SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- The American Heart Association says nearly half of all American adults have high blood pressure. That number jumped dramatically when guidelines from the heart association and ten other health organizations redefined high blood pressure as 130 over 80 late last year. It had been 140 0ver 90 since the early 2000’s. Hear how changes came after data from a study on how lower blood pressure goals affected older people.

Phyllis Leppert has been fighting high blood pressure for more than a decade. She’s taken different medications, she eats right, and exercises. But it’s still a daily battle.

Phyllis shared, “When I have high blood pressure, when it’s over 120 consistently, I feel tireder. I don’t have as much energy. I mean, I kind of sense that it’s not right.”

Now, she’ll have to work harder to make her numbers. Her new suggested lower goal is 120 over 80. Mark Supiano, MD, Geriatrics Investigator at University of Utah Health and Salt Lake City VA Medical Center, was part of the trial that led to the change. It targeted 120 systolic blood pressure, the higher number, for older people.

Dr. Supiano explained, “The major results from the trial suggested that there was a dramatic improvement in benefit for preventing cardiovascular disease, heart attack and stroke. And, in addition, there was a reduction in all-cause mortality.”

Incidence of heart failure, heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular disease dropped 25 percent in the trial, 33 percent in folks older than 75. The results were so dramatic, the five year trial ended in three.

Dr. Supiano says many patients added a medication to get a lower blood pressure, but none of it caused more negative effects. Both the doctor and Phyllis agree that a healthy lifestyle is the best medicine and that it’s never too late to make changes.

“People need to know that they can change, and if they do change, they’ll feel a lot better,” Phyllis added.

She should know. She’s about to turn 80.

Dr. Supiano’s team is now investigating whether the lower blood pressure will improve cognitive response and potentially lower the chances of conditions like dementia. The new guidelines stress the importance of an accurate blood pressure reading, so doctors and patients should use an automated blood pressure cuff, take multiple readings, and check pressure at home. You can get more information at www.cardiosmart.org/highbp.