Is There a Magic Number for High Pressure? | MedStar Health

Is There a Magic Number for High Pressure?

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New Guidelines Recommend Higher Targets for Older Adults

Washington, D.C., January 25, 2016One in three adults in the U.S. has high blood pressure. That number climbs to two in three for older adults.

Recently, two medical groups released recommendations that set safe blood pressure targets higher than ever for adults 60 and older – a group at high risk for complications from high blood pressure.

Traditionally, the threshold for high blood pressure has been set at 140/90 mm/Hg. But the new guidelines, from the American College of Physicians and the American Academy of Family Physicians, state that patients older than 60 should begin treatment if their systolic blood pressure (top number) reaches 150. If the patient has high cardiovascular risk or a history of stroke, treatment should begin at 140.

The new recommendations come after a series of studies that show that a lower systolic blood pressure increases heart-health benefits for adults 60 and older, including reduced risk of heart attack and stroke. The Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT) in 2015 found that targeting a blood pressure of 120 or lower was more effective to reduce the rates of major cardiovascular events than targeting 140.

“It’s difficult to draw absolute conclusions from these studies for a variety of reasons,” said Allen J. Taylor, MD, chief of Cardiology with MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. “It’s important to remember that blood pressure doesn’t just measure pressure. It’s also a marker for other things going on in your body, such as stress, heredity factors, diet and exercise.” 

Dr. Taylor concluded that there’s no magic blood pressure number that applies to everyone. “Your health history and lifestyle greatly influence your heart health and what’s safe for you. Work with your doctor to monitor and effectively manage your blood pressure.”

The guidelines were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and the Annals of Family Medicine.

About MedStar Washington Hospital Center:
MedStar Washington Hospital Center is a 926-bed, major teaching and research hospital. It is the largest private, not-for-profit hospital in the nation’s capital, among the 100 largest hospitals in the nation and a major referral center for treating the most complex cases. U.S.News & World Report consistently ranks the hospital’s cardiology and heart surgery program as one of the nation’s best. It also is a respected top facility in the areas of cancer, diabetes & endocrinology, Ear, Nose & Throat, gastroenterology & GI surgery, geriatrics, gynecology, nephrology, pulmonology and urology. It operates MedSTAR, a nationally-verified level I trauma center with a state-of-the-art fleet of helicopters and ambulances, and also operates the region’s only adult Burn Center.