Washington, May 14 (Reuters): People who once thought their blood pressure was fine actually may be well on their way to hypertension under new US guidelines published today.
While doctors do not usually become concerned about a patient’s blood pressure until it reaches 140/90, the new guidelines said the risk of heart disease actually starts when a patient’s blood pressure is at 115/75.
The guidelines, issued by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and endorsed by the American Heart Association, say patients need to start exercising and eating a healthier diet once blood pressure reaches 120/80 — a level now designated as “pre-hypertension”.
They do not need to take drugs until blood pressure reaches 140/90.
“The higher the blood pressure, the greater the chance of heart attack, heart failure, stroke and kidney disease,” said the report, published in a special online issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.
High blood pressure or hypertension affects about 50 million Americans and a billion people worldwide. In the US, only about 34 per cent of people with high blood pressure have it under control.
It was also once believed the “lower” or diastolic number in a blood pressure reading was the more important. But the new rules said in men and women over 50, the “top” number was in fact more likely to predict heart disease.
“What we are saying is ‘change your lifestyle’,” Dr Aram Chobanian, dean of the Boston University School of Medicine, told a news conference. “Losing 10 pounds (5 kg) will help remarkably... Thirty minutes of exercise, most days a week, is achievable.
“The report also made an unusual recommendation that doctors be nice to their patients.
“The relationship between caregiver and patient, when good, provides very good results,” said the institute’s director, Dr Claude Lenfant.
The guidelines also endorsed encouraging the food industry to lower salt levels gradually so that Americans lose their taste for heavily salted food. Salt is closely linked with blood pressure.