Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a health issue for almost a third of Americans. At 77.9 million people, this number is expected to increase. High blood pressure is known as the silent killer because there are no obvious symptoms in early stages. For people who already have hypertension, 82% are aware they have it, and 75% of people are actually taking blood pressure medication. Most concerning is that only 53% have their condition controlled to the target level. Hypertension is a known risk factor for many diseases including heart attack and stroke. For the first time in 30 years, experts have made recent new recommendations for high blood pressure management. A main focus in the new recommendations is that doctors can hold off on prescribing blood pressure medication for adults over 60 until blood pressure reaches 150/90, when previously it was prescribed once the systolic pressure was at 140/90 (the diastolic pressure of 90 stays the same). Studies have found no additional benefits to treatment at 140/90. For adults younger than 60, the target blood pressure remains targeted below 140/90.
High blood pressure treatment
The new guidelines remind us that the right blood pressure medication and lifestyle habits are vital to successful treatment. Primary treatment options have been expanded to include Thiazide diuretics, which eliminate excess salt and water from the kidneys, and calcium channel blockers, which reduce the amount of oxygen needed by the heart. Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors are another inclusion, and works to restrict binding of blood-constricting to blood vessels, while angiotensin receptor blockers prevent production of blood-constricting chemicals. Guideline changes push lower-risk medication for newly diagnosed patients, when previous recommendations only included diuretics to treat new patients. The new guidelines also state that high blood pressure medication with more serious side effects, such as beta blockers, should be used in more complicated cases. Besides high blood pressure medication, any hypertension management plan should include a low-salt diet, moderate exercise, weight control, and stress management. Of course, talk to your doctor to customize the best way to manage your blood pressure.