Last week new guidelines were released that redefine hypertension (high blood pressure), which is a leading cause of heart failure, stroke and heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, the change means 46 percent of U.S. adults will now be identified as having high blood pressure. In the Houston area – which is home to the Texas Heart Institute – the percentage of women with hypertension could be even higher based on research conducted by the Institute’s Center for Women’s Heart & Vascular Health.
According to the Women’s Center’s Houston HeartReach Registry, the percentage of women with high blood pressure in the Greater Houston community could more than double based on new guidelines released by the American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology and nine other health professional organizations.
"Under the old guidelines, almost 20 percent of the women we screened through our Houston HeartReach programs had high blood pressures,” said Dr. Stephanie Coulter, Director of Texas Heart Institute’s Center for Women’s Heart & Vascular Health. “Under the new guidelines, almost 55 percent now have high blood pressure.”
High blood pressure used to be considered 140/90, but now, individuals with blood pressure readings of 130 mm Hg systolic pressure (top number) or 80 mm Hg diastolic pressure (bottom number) are considered to have stage 1 hypertension. In addition to this change, one of the most significant changes in the new guidelines is the removal of the category “prehypertension.”
“The newly defined ‘elevated blood pressure’ category and removal of the ‘prehypertension’ label is a really important change that I think will have a seriously positive impact on prevention,” Dr. Coulter continued. “Recent studies have shown people who achieve 120 mm Hg systolic pressure or lower have roughly 30 percent fewer heart attacks, strokes and less heart disease than those with slightly higher blood pressure target goals. That’s significant and I’m happy to see the updated guidelines now reflect these findings which I believe will help to save millions of lives.”
Dr. Coulter, who has written about the risks of high systolic pressure and her recommendations for target blood pressure rates, has long been interested in investigating the roles biology, psychology and lifestyle play in putting a woman at risk for heart disease. To investigate the racial disparity in the development of cardiovascular disease within Harris County, the Houston HeartReach database registry was established earlier this year in correlation with the Houston HeartReach community outreach program.
The Houston HeartReach outreach program is a collaborative effort joining the cardiovascular clinical and research expertise of Texas Heart Institute’s Center for Women’s Heart & Vascular Health with the community outreach organizations of the Greater Houston area. The program was launched in 2011 and is supported by grants from the Alpha Phi Foundation, Hamill Foundation and Kappa Kappa Gamma Charitable Foundation of Houston.