However, with research showing complications occurring in readings of 130/80, the American Heart Association officially redefined the criteria for high blood pressure - a reading of 120/80.
According to Ferdinand, high blood pressure is the leading cause of heart conditions that lead to death and disability in America.
A doctor speaks to a patient as a sphygmomanometer, or blood pressure meter, lies on his desk. This added pressure causes the heart to work too hard and blood vessels to function less effectively.
"You would think the people that have high blood pressure would be the people that are over weight, they smoke, they don't take care of them selves, don't eat well and certainly that's a possibility, but that doesn't have to be the case", said Dr. Gordon.
The new guidelines also emphasize the importance of accurate blood pressure measurements, using an average of different readings at different times.
Under the new guidelines, 120 or less is still normal blood pressure, but up to 129 is considered elevated.
The top number in a blood pressure reading refers to the amount of pressure in your arteries during contraction of your heart muscle. While some people may be concerned to learn they now have high blood pressure, Gianos says that the new guidelines are a sign that experts are learning and improving their advice to people in order to further lower their risk of dying from heart-related causes.
Regarding the move to a lower threshold for hypertension, Whelton pointed to the dangers of blood pressure levels between 130-139/80-89 mm Hg.
By lowering the number that is considered too high, doctors are expanding the characterization so now almost half of US adults have hypertension. By the AHA's old standards, 32 percent of American adults suffered from high blood pressure.
The change is expected to have the biggest effect on men and women under the age of 45. She is medical director of Heart Failure and Cardiac Transplantation at St. Vincent Heart Center of Indiana. This is called systolic pressure.
Still, only about half of Americans with hypertension under the old guidelines have it under control, said Whelton, the guideline chair. The studies were reviewed by 52 experts who submitted close to 1,000 questions, and approved by 11 partnering medical organizations.
"People with white-coat hypertension do not seem to have the same elevation in risk as someone with true sustained high blood pressure", Whelton said.
Stage 2: Systolic of 140 or higher. "There is an opportunity to reduce risk without necessarily imposing medications", said Richard Chazal, the immediate past president of the American College of Cardiology.
Often called the silent killer because there are often no obvious symptoms, hypertension accounts for more heart disease and stroke deaths than nearly all other preventable causes.
Yes, we will label more people hypertensive and give more medication, but we will save lives and money by preventing more strokes, cardiovascular events and kidney failure, said Kenneth Jamerson, M.D., Ph.D., professor of internal medicine and hypertension specialist at the University of Michigan Health System.