New Guidelines Mean Millions More Americans Need to Lower Blood Pressure

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The American Heart Association released a major update regarding new blood pressure guidelines and under the changes, more Americans are considered to have high blood pressure.

It's safe to say most people would be overwhelmed with the new guidelines - 167 pages, citing 367 scientific publications, titled "2017 ACC/AHA/AAPA/ABC/ACPM/AGS/APhA/ASH/ASPC/NMA/PCNA Guideline for the Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Management of High Blood Pressure in Adults".

High blood pressure is second only to smoking when it comes to preventable heart disease and stroke deaths.

Tighter blood pressure guidelines from USA heart organizations mean millions more people need to make lifestyle changes, or start taking medication, in order to avoid cardiovascular problems.

Millions more Americans will be classified as having high blood pressure, but this doesn't necessarily mean more people will be put on medication.

Dr Satjit Bhusri, a cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in NY, said he agrees with the change "because it allows for early lifestyle changes to be addressed".

The normal limit for blood pressure is considered 120 for systolic, or how much pressure the blood places on the artery walls when the heart beats, and 80 for diastolic, which is measured between beats.


Now 46 percent of USA adults will have high blood pressure.

Concerns about those side effects, as well as the fact that the close monitoring seen in a clinical trial is hard to replicate, led the AHA, ACC and other groups to select the 130 systolic blood pressure target.

But the drugs have side effects and the new guidelines emphasize lifestyle changes including weight loss, diet and exercise as the first tool for combating hypertension.

WECT's Ben Smart is interviewing two cardiologists today to understand what these new heart health guidelines mean for you.

Medication is recommended for people with stage 1 hypertension only "if a patient has already had a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack or stroke, or is at high risk of heart attack or stroke based on age, the presence of diabetes mellitus, chronic kidney disease or calculation of atherosclerotic risk".

The new guidelines also emphasize the importance of accurate blood pressure measurements, using an average of different readings at different times.

Experts said the majority of Americans affected won't need medication but will need to make lifestyle changes.

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