Evidence from a string of recent studies suggests that aiming for a lower blood pressure in older adults may not be as risky as previously thought.
The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology issued a new guideline for high blood pressure, pushing the number of adults who qualify for this health risk factor from 75 million under the previous standard, to 103 million.
High blood pressure is considered only second to smoking as a preventable cause of heart attacks and strokes, with heart disease in the lead as the biggest killer of Americans. The new high blood pressure guideline will be defined as 130/80 millimeters of mercury or greater for anyone with a significant risk of heart attack or stroke, compared to 140/90, the previous guideline. Individuals with high blood pressure can lower it by exercising more and eating a healthier diet.
The guideline, which hadn’t been revised since 2003, was changed in large part due to convincing data obtained from a 2015 federal study that provided a number of adults over 50 who were at high risk of heart disease with a more intense treatment than was previously thought healthy for this age group. The results were surprising, and beneficial: The intensified treatment produced no additional side effects, and lowered participants’ risk of heart attack and stroke, while making them more likely to maintain their independence.
Experts worry that more intensive drug treatment could lead to increased rates of kidney disease, however, so taking this approach should be dependent on many different factors specific to the individual.
Anyone can determine their blood pressure using a calculator recommended by experts and developed by the guidelines committee found at ccccalculator.ccctracker.com. Nearly 80% of people aged 65 and older will find that they qualify for high blood pressure and will need to take steps to reduce it, The New York Times reported. Additionally, since people age 65 or older are at 10% risk of cardiovascular trouble due to their age alone, under the new guideline, this age group will have to shoot for a blood pressure no higher than 130/80. People with less than 10% risk for heart attack or stroke are being told to aim for a slightly more lenient standard of 140/90.
Fortunately for those with high blood pressure, the condition is treatable by a change in lifestyle and/or medication. Drugs that treat high blood pressure are nearly all available under generic labels, so they are considered relatively affordable as well.
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