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New Guidelines Loosen Treatment for Blood Pressure in Seniors

Update Date: Dec 18, 2013 01:54 PM EST

In the upcoming years, fewer seniors might need to rely on hypertension medications. According to new guidelines published today, people over the age of 60 with high blood pressure should only be placed on medications if their blood pressure reading is at 150/90 milligrams of mercury or over. The previous recommendation was set at 140/90.

Even though the new guidelines changed the blood pressure reading limit for seniors, for people between the ages of 30 and 59, the old recommendation still applies. For people in this age group, doctors should put hypertensive adults on medications if their reading is over 140/90.

This new recommendation was written after the results from several studies suggest that older people do not benefit any more, health wise if their blood pressures were to be further reduced to 140/90. The experts had spent five years reviewing evidence. Despite this new recommendation, the experts, which were made up of 17 academics, stated that if seniors did not suffer from any side effects, they could continue their medications if they wished.

"If you get patients' blood pressure below 150, I believe you are doing as well as can be done based on scientific evidence," said Dr. Paul A. James, chairman of the department of family medicine at the University of Iowa and co-chairman of the guidelines committee reported by the New York Times. "We have this notion that if we can get blood pressure to normal, we will have the most health benefits. That's not necessarily true."

Dr. Suzanne Oparil, co-chairwoman of the committee and director of the vascular biology and hypertension program at the University of Alabama School of Medicine, added, "The mantra of blood pressure experts in the past has been that lower is better. Recent studies don't seem to support that."

Critics of this new guideline state that lowering blood pressure in general has been linked to reducing risks of strokes and heart disease. The guidelines were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

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