Millions could need medication under new blood pressure guidelines

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In November, the American Heart Association issued new blood pressure guidelines, but not everyone is on board. The American Academy of Family Physicians has not endorsed them.

Amber Olek might be filling more and more prescriptions under the new blood pressure guidelines. She's mixed about the changes.

"We have to make our own decisions but we also have to put a little trust that they've done their due diligence, those guidelines are supported by organizations that are well established," Amber Olek, clinical pharmacist at CHI St. Alexius.

The American Heart Association lowered the threshold for what's considered high blood pressure.

The AHA recommends lifestyle changes including diet and exercise before a person reaches a high blood pressure diagnosis. Dr. Jonathan Eklof explains how earlier intervention can help patients.

"It can cut your risk in half as far as heart failure and can cut the risk of stroke and heart attack as well. The longer you're controlled, the lower your risk is," said Eklof.

An estimated 30 million more Americans will fall in the new range for high blood pressure. But it doesn't mean 30 million new prescriptions.

Eklof said: "They're not always going to be recommending medications. A lot of times, people that don't have other risk factors for heart disease can start with lifestyle modifications rather than a medication."

The AHA says about 6 million will need medication.

The guidelines are broken down into four sections. Blood pressure readings have two numbers.

In an explatation from the Centers for Disease Control, the first number, called systolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats. The second number, called diastolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart rests between beats.