According to new guidelines issued by the Eighth National Committee in the US, blood pressure goals should be relaxed in adults aged 60 years and older. The committee which comprised 17 academics, concluded that there was no strong evidence to support existing blood pressure targets that had guided treatment, and that the risks of taking medications outweighed the benefits. New targets are to keep blood pressure below 150/90 rather than previously 140/90. The new guidelines also state that blood pressure levels of adults with diabetes and kidney disease should be eased. In their research, blood pressure data from more than 16,000 US citizens was studied between the years 2005 to 2010, to assess the impact of these recommendations.

Study suggests fewer people need BP medication

Their conclusion was that the proportion of adults previously considered eligible for medication should fall, meaning that only 32 percent rather than the current 41 percent should be prescribed medications. The study was published online in March in The Journal of The American Medical Association and was presented at the American College of Cardiology’s annual meeting in Washington D.C.

The report also stated that the 13.5 million adults (most of whom are over 60) now considered to have poorly-controlled hypertension, would now be considered as having blood pressure that is adequately controlled. This includes nearly 6 million adults who would now no longer need to take drugs for high blood pressure. According to the report’s authors, this research does not address whether these people should still be said to have hypertension, but rather that they would not require medication to lower it. That’s according to lead author Ann Marie Navar-Boggan, fellow in cardiology at Duke University School of Medicine.

Guidelines suggest less intensive treatment for seniors

At present, one in four adults aged 60 or older has treatment for high blood pressure. The report suggests that they do not need to have such intensive treatment, especially if they were also experiencing side-effects from their medications. According to Dr. Paul A James of the University of Iowa and co-chairman of the guidelines committee, getting blood pressure below 150/90 was a more helpful target based on the scientific evidence.

Doctors still need to make decisions based in individual requirements

While the guidelines are there to help clinicians make informed decisions on whether to give medications or not, careful consideration of each patient’s individual needs is also required.
Even under the new guidelines there will still be a large amount of Americans with uncontrolled high blood pressure, with half of these not currently receiving treatment. This greatly increases their chances of getting heart attacks and strokes. It’s still a given that treatment of very high blood pressure is essential when it comes to saving lives and avoiding adverse health events. But for people in the middle groups, the picture is not so clear. While meds do bring down blood pressure they may have a negative impact on overall health.

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