Since 2003 health experts have recommended that hypertensive patients (people with high blood pressure) keep their blood pressure (BP) levels below 140/90 in order to prevent heart and kidney failure, heart attacks, and stroke.
Recently however, new findings indicate that adults over age 60 who are not diabetic and don’t have kidney disease may get no additional benefit from keeping their systolic blood pressures (the top number) below 150.
New 2014 recommendations, published in February by the 17 member Eighth Joint National Committee suggest that adults over 60 aim for a systolic blood pressure of 150 or below.
These guidelines were based on their analysis of the best randomized controlled trials conducted between 1966 and 2013.
Although the new guidelines were published by the full panel, 5 members decided to publish a minority view in the Annals of Internal Medicine in which they shared concerns that lowering the systolic blood pressure goal might jeopardize the cardiovascular health of patients.
Last month researchers at the Duke Clinical Research Institute, in collaboration with McGill University, published an analysis of more than 16,000 Americans between 2005 and 2010 to assess the potential impact of the revised guidelines.
Published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the authors estimated that as many as 5.8 million US adults over age 60 would no longer need hypertensive medication. The publication date was intentionally set to coincide with the American College of Cardiology meeting in Washington, D.C. and the expectation is that there will be more discussion before the controversy is resolved.
According to the researchers, 1 in 4 adults over age 60 currently receive treatment for high blood pressure. Another 28 million U.S. adults have uncontrolled high blood pressure and more than half of them are not being treated.
• Everyone should have regular blood pressure checks since hypertension is a risk factor for stroke as well as heart and kidney disease.
• If you are over age 60, taking drugs for hypertension, and are concerned about whether you need to continue your medications, consult with your physician to review your treatment.