High blood pressure, or hypertension, is the leading cause of heart disease and heart-related deaths in the U.S. and worldwide. Now, new guidelines have been issued that change the threshold for what is considered to be ‘high’ blood pressure. Haitham Ahmed, M.D., comments.
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CLEVELAND – High blood pressure, or hypertension, is the leading cause of heart disease and heart-related deaths in the U.S. and worldwide.
Now, new guidelines have been issued that change the threshold for what is considered to be ‘high’ blood pressure.
In the past, people with heart disease, or who were at high risk for heart disease, were classified as having high blood pressure once their levels reached 140 over 90.
Under the new guidelines, a blood pressure of 130 over 80 would be considered high for this group of individuals.
Haitham Ahmed, M.D., Medical Director of Cardiac Rehabilitation at Cleveland Clinic, said with the new guidelines, more than 100 million Americans will be categorized as having high blood pressure.
He said those who will see the most impact from the updated guidelines are individuals whose blood pressure has been on the border between high and normal.
However, the good news is that research has shown that intervening at an earlier stage can reduce a person’s risk of heart attack and stroke.
“What we now know, from several clinical trials involving more than 140,000 patients, that if we get that blood pressure down even lower, less than 130 over 80, maybe even down to the 120’s over 70’s – then you can reduce risk of heart attack, reduce risk of stroke and increase their longevity,” said Dr. Ahmed.
Dr. Ahmed said the first step towards lowering blood pressure, for most people, involves lifestyle modifications, such as reducing sodium intake, losing weight, exercising more, reducing alcohol intake and eating a diet that is high in fiber and lower in fat.
For patients who are elderly, or who already have kidney disease, Dr. Ahmed said it’s good to lower their blood pressure, but it can’t be done overnight. He said for patients who have had high blood pressure for many years, dropping it too quickly can put them at an increased risk for kidney injury, hypotension, falls or passing out.
He said it’s important for everyone to see a doctor regularly to know their personal risk and to develop an individualized plan for treatment when necessary.
“By seeing a doctor and making sure that your blood pressure is checked correctly; having a risk-assessment with your doctor; and especially if you don’t have cardiovascular disease, knowing whether you are low-risk, intermediate-risk, or high-risk; having that discussion with the doctor is going to help guide the context in which your blood pressure is going to be managed,” said Dr. Ahmed.
Overall, Dr. Ahmed said that by lowering the threshold for what is considered hypertensive, it can get more people to take a look at their blood pressure and hopefully set them on a path towards lowering it sooner.
“We know that if we treat the blood pressure to lower targets, we can prevent heart attacks, we can prevent strokes, and we can help our patients lead nice, long prosperous lives -that’s our goal.”
Complete results of the research and guidelines are available on the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.