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New guidelines raise blood pressure threshold

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There is no doubt that high blood pressure can be a silent killer, leading to heart attack, stroke and kidney disease. However, results of a new study conducted by the 8th Joint National Commission on Hypertension has found that “lower blood pressure is not necessarily better in terms of health outcomes,” and is now recommending that doctors refrain from prescribing high blood pressure medications to people 60 and older with readings under 150/90. Prior guidelines had set the threshold at 140/90.

“There is no point in bringing an elderly patient’s blood pressure down to 120 if they are light-headed every time they stand up,” noted Dr. Paul James of the University of Iowa, who co-chaired the panel.

In addition, they have raised the threshold from 130/80 to 140/90 for patients 20-59 who have kidney disease or diabetes.

In addition to reducing prescriptions for lowering blood pressure, the new guidelines also stress other methods for bringing levels down including reducing salt intake, eating healthier diets, losing weight and exercising.

Note: Blood pressure rises with each heartbeat and falls when your heart relaxes between beats. The top number (systolic) measures the pressure in the arteries as the heart muscle beats, the lower number (diastolic) measures the pressure in the arteries between beats when the arteries are refilling with blood between beats. It is also important to realize that BP can change from minute to minute with changes in posture, exercise, stress or sleep.

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