BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – Heart doctors have changed the guidelines for high blood pressure, and there’s a chance under these new guidelines you may now have it.

The old standard for high blood pressure used to be 140/90. Now it’s 130/80. Dr. Andrew P. Miller, a cardiologist with Cardiovascular Associates in Birmingham, says the change was a long time coming. The guidelines were last updated in 2003. And he believes the new designation will contribute to better heart health around the country.

“I think people are waking up today and realizing they’ve got a disease,” he said. “And so that’s beneficial because if we have more awareness – the No. 1 killer is heart disease, over the last 20 years we’ve cut it nearly in half – but there’s still a lot we can do. And if we treat people earlier and we get people to lower blood pressure goals safely, then we really will change the future of heart health and improve heart health.”

If your blood pressure is above 130/80 but below 140/90, you may need to make some lifestyle changes, Miller says. Examples include more exercise and less sodium and alcohol intake. If your blood pressure is above 140/90, you probably need assistance from a doctor and may need medicine.

He also recommends checking your average blood pressure at home yourself. To get that average, he says you should check your blood pressure twice a day for a week. Each morning: You should sit still for five minutes with your back in the back of a chair, feet flat on the floor and your arm up at heart level. Then measure two blood pressure readings and take the average. Do the same again right before dinner. At the end of the week, take the average of the 14 readings you’ve accumulated, and this will give you an accurate average blood pressure.