New guidelines for blood pressure medication
High blood pressure (hypertension) affects one in three adults in the United States and contributes to one out of every seven deaths and nearly half of all cardiovascular disease-related deaths in the United States. Approximately 50 million Americans are currently taking medication to keep their blood pressure in check.
However, a report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) recommends new guidelines for who should be taking medication for high blood pressure. The report offers nine recommendations for managing hypertension. The top recommendation is that patients 60 years of age or older don’t necessarily need medication for blood pressure if their systolic blood pressure (the “top” number) is equal to or less than 150. This is a change from the previous recommendation, which had been to take medication if the number was greater than 140. Physicians typically prescribed medication to make sure patients maintain blood pressures below 140.
The previous guidelines were released over a decade ago, and endorsed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) according to an editorial written in JAMA. The new recommendations “were ultimately not sanctioned by the NHLBI. The panel’s report is now published in JAMA as a stand-alone document, and it remains unclear as to whether, or when, or by whom another consensus national hypertension guideline will again be formulated.”
“High blood pressure, when left uncontrolled, can increase a patient’s risk of heart attack, stroke and other serious vascular diseases,” says Dr. Allison Benthal, an Internal Medicine Physician with Advocate Medical Group. “There are other factors, such as smoking, obesity and lack of exercise that are risk factors for high blood pressure. But also hypertension has a genetic component, so some patients may be at greater risk just because of the genes they’ve inherited.”
Dr. Benthal recommends lifestyle changes like exercise and healthy eating as your first line of defense against heart disease. In addition, Dr. Benthal states, “Eat foods lower in sodium; if you smoke, quit; measure and record your blood pressure readings between doctor’s visits; and keep your physician informed of any blood pressure readings you may take at home.”
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