New High Blood Pressure Guidelines Released

New guidelines from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology have been released for the treatment of high blood pressure that may have many more older Americans receiving a diagnosis of hypertension.

The new guidelines define high blood pressure as 130/80 millimeters of mercury or greater; previous guidelines used the threshold of 140/90.  Because people over the age of 65 have a 10 per cent greater risk of heart problems without any other contributing factors, they should be aiming for blood pressure lower than 130/80.

It is estimated that nearly half of all Americans and 80 per cent of seniors over the age of 65 will have a 10 per cent or greater risk of heart attack or stroke over the next 10 years requiring treatment.  Other risk factors besides age include heart disease, kidney disease and diabetes.

The new guidelines recommend blood pressure be taken several times at different appointments to determine if the patient has consistently high readings or if other factors including stress, caffeine, supplements or alcohol consumption are contributing to high numbers. 

Treatment Options

Lifestyle changes: 

  • DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension)
  • Exercise
  • Stopping smoking
  • Weight loss

Medications including:

  • Diuretics
  • ACE inhibitors
  • Receptor blockers
  • Channel blockers

Diet and exercise sound like a simple treatment option but can be difficult to follow without the help of a dietician and support systems to ensure adherence.  Some patients may have adverse reactions to certain medications or they are ineffective.  It is important to work with a physician and report any side effects in order to make the necessary adjustments; as many and 1 in 4 patients do not take their medications if they have have side effects that can include constipation or swollen hands and feet.

To track your risk for heart attack and stroke, visit the American Heart Association’s Check, Change, Control Calculator here.

To learn more about the DASH diet, follow this link to the Mayo Clinic website.