Doc­tors lower the bar on high blood pres­sure

USA TODAY International Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Kim Painter

Thirty mil­lion Amer­i­cans are get­ting some bad health news: They have high blood pres­sure and need to do some­thing about it, ac­cord­ing to new, more ag­gres­sive hy­per­ten­sion treat­ment guidelines re­leased by heart doc­tors Mon­day.

The doc­tors and other ex­perts, from the Amer­i­can Heart As­so­ci­a­tion, the Amer­i­can Col­lege of Car­di­ol­ogy and nine other groups, are mov­ing the goal line for blood pres­sure con­trol, mean­ing 46% of adults in the USA — about 103 mil­lion — could now be di­ag­nosed with hy­per­ten­sion.

That’s up from 32%, or 72 mil­lion un­der the old guidelines.

Most of those peo­ple will be urged to change their di­ets, ex­er­cise more and make other lifestyle changes rather than take med­i­ca­tion. The guidelines also call on pa­tients al­ready in treat­ment to work to­ward the lower goal — a read­ing of no more than 130/80, down from the old stan­dard, 140/90.

It’s not clear how widely or rapidly front-line doc­tors will adopt the changes, but if and when they do, here’s what pa­tients should ex­pect:

❚ If your blood pres­sure is be­tween 130/80 and 140/90, your doc­tor will say you have “stage one” hy­per­ten­sion and will sug­gest los­ing lifestyle changes such as los­ing weight.

❚ If you have stage one hy­per­ten­sion and some ad­di­tional risk fac­tors, you will be asked to try med­i­ca­tion, along with lifestyle changes.

❚ If your blood pres­sure is above 140/ 90, your doc­tor will rec­om­mend you make lifestyle changes and take two kinds of blood pres­sure med­i­ca­tions.

❚ Pa­tients al­ready tak­ing med­i­ca­tions might be put on higher doses or ad­di­tional drugs to reach the new lower goal. Pa­tients over 65 will be urged to talk to their doc­tors about how ag­gres­sively they want to be treated.

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