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Northwest Indiana physicians say the new blood pressure guidelines from the American Heart Association have the potential to save lives in the Region.

The heart association, along with the American College of Cardiology, recently updated the definition of high blood pressure. It is now considered 130/80, down from 140/90.

"One-thirty is the new 140," said Dr. Hussam Suradi, an interventional cardiologist and director of the Structural Heart & Valve Center at Community Hospital in Munster and St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart. "They've shown, based on new trials, that it reduces cardiovascular disease and morbidity and mortality, so it does save lives."

The new guidelines also recommend that doctors treat everyone the same, regardless of age. The old recommendations were not to be as aggressive with people 60 and over.

Under the new guidelines, almost 45 percent of U.S. adults, or more than 100 million people, will be considered hypertensive, up from 30 percent and 70 million, respectively.

"High blood pressure is a gateway to other health issues such as heart attacks and strokes," said Dr. Andre Artis, a cardiologist with Methodist Hospitals "The new guidelines should prevent or slow the progression of other health issues at earlier stages. Hispanics and African-Americans are at a higher risk of heart attack and stroke."

He noted, however, that high blood pressure isn't diagnosed after just one screening; that takes multiple tests.

Suradi said the updated guidelines don't mean that everyone with high blood pressure will have to take a pill. He noted that the guidelines emphasize lifestyle modifications for people with blood pressure less than 140: eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables with less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day and more than 3,500 milligrams of potassium, losing weight, increasing physical activity, limiting alcohol to two drinks a day for men and one a day for women.

He said a downside of the blood pressure update is that some patients may not be happy — or willing — to take more pills. But he said the randomized trials that influenced the new standards showed that the improvement of patients' health outweighed any side effects from more medication.

“Applying these guidelines will result in improved blood pressure management for our Region, and most importantly, a dramatic improvement in cardiovascular health and quality of life,” stated Dr. Jay Shah, a cardiologist and medical director of the Heart Valve Center for Porter Health Care System.

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Health reporter

Giles is the health reporter for The Times, covering the business of health care as well as consumer and public health. He previously wrote about health for the Lawrence (Kansas) Journal-World. He is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.