To my knowlege hypertenion readings have undergone at least 3 changes in the last 20 years or so, constantly getting stricter. I don’t know what the ideal readings were before that.
It used to be that anything below 140/90 was considered normal, 140/90-160/95 was borderline and anything above 160/95 was hypertension.
Then up to 140/90 was normal, I believe about 140-160/90-105 was mild and 160-180/105-115 was moderate. Then there are the severe levels above about 180/115.
Now 120/80 is normal, 120/80-139/89 is prehypertension (a few years ago a reading in that range was normal), 140/90-159/99 is stage 1 (which was considered borderline not long ago) and 160/100+ is stage two.
I have heard some say that anything above 115/75 or 120/80 should be considered hypertension. I don’t know if there are any efforts to change the guidelines again to make anything above 120/80 hypertension, but who knows.
So why have the standards gotten stricter and stricter? One argument I have heard is financial, right now by the current standards about 1/5 of the US population (60 million or so) have hypertension with another 60 million or so having pre-hypertension (120-139/80-89). So when you change the classification you encourage millions to start using medications and visiting doctors, if the standards ever change to 115/75 being ideal and anything above that being hypertension, about half the population would be considered hypertensive. But that argument makes no sense to me. Doctor and NP appointments for hypertension are cheap (usually under $100) and most of the drugs are off patent. Virtually all the CCBs, ACEIs, diuretics, beta blockers and alpha blockers are off patent and can be gotten for $2-4 a month. The ARBs are starting to come off patent and you can already get some as generics for some of those.
So I don’t see what financial incentive there would be to make the diagnosis of hypertension more strict. The doctor visits and drugs to treat it are cheap and not too profitable.
Healthwise, I’ve read every 20/10 point jump above 115/75 doubles the risk of cardiovascular disease (I don’t know if that is a compounded double or what, ie does 175/105 give 4x the risk or 8x the risk) or that prehypertension gives 3x the risk of heart attack vs a reading of about 120/80. So has medical science discovered in the last 15 years that blood pressure is a lot more important than they used to give it credit for and that is the only reason the standards have changed?
Or is medicine just getting more conservative and cautious about health readings with time and things that used to be overlooked are now taken more seriously?
Why are the standards getting stricter so rapidly?