New high blood pressure guidelines could help save lives

Doctors have altered the hypertension guidelines, which could change the recommended diets and lifestyle for millions of Americans.
By Vicky Webb | Nov 16, 2017
Scientists from the American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology, and nine other organizations have released new hypertension guidelines that have moved the goal line for blood pressure control.

This change is significant because it means roughly 46 percent (130 million) of all Americans could be diagnosed with hypertension. That is a large jump from the 32 percent (72 million) that were diagnosed under the old guidelines.

Most of the people who are now added to the list will be urged to make healthy lifestyle changes, including altering their diets and exercising more. The new guidelines will also expect patients who are already in treatment to work toward the lower goal.

Though the change is significant, it is not as big as experts expected after a 2015 study showed setting even lower goals saved lives. In addition, nobody is sure how widely or rapidly front-line doctors will adopt the new changes.

However, if the changes go into effect there will be some alterations. For example, if a person's blood pressure is between 130/80 and 140/90, they will be diagnosed with "stage one" hypertension and their doctor will suggest they lose weight and improve their diet.People with additional risk factors -- such as a previous stroke, heart attack, diabetes or kidney disease -- will be asked to try medication, while patients with higher levels will be asked to undergo lifestyle changes and take blood-pressure lowering medications.

The new guidelines also show how health care providers and people at home should check blood pressure. The scientists state that doctors and nurses should let patients rest five minutes before a test, and that patients should take regular readings at home with doctor-approved devices.

"We want to be straight with people if you already have a doubling of risk, you need to know about it," said guideline chair Paul Whelton, a professor of global public health at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine., according to USA Today. "It doesn't mean you need medication, but it's a yellow light that you need to be lowering your blood pressure."

The guidelines could help improve the health of millions of Americans. Scientists believe that many people will be able to reach the new goal, which could then help many people lead a healthier lifestyle.


"We now have clear enough data that lower blood pressure really does reduce cardiovascular events," said Eugenia Gianos, co-clinical director of the center for the prevention of cardiovascular disease at NYU Langone Health who was not involved in the guidelines, according toTIME.

The new guidelines are detailed in theJournal of the American College of Cardiology.


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