Doc Talk: New hypertension guidelines designed to help people live longer, healthier

Dr. Vishal Gupta, vice chairman of the Borgess Heart Institute, said the new guidelines for treating hypertension will be a benefit to patients. (WWMT)

Somewhere between 15 percent and 30 percent of Americans don’t even know they have high blood pressure. And it’s only partly because the definitions have changed.

For more than a decade, doctors started treating patients for high blood pressure at 140 over 90 millimeters of mercury. But there was a concern that treatment didn’t begin soon enough.

Last fall, the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology published new guidelines for hypertension, with a goal of helping people address the potentially deadly condition much earlier.

Now, treatment is recommended when blood pressure is between 130 over 80 and 139 over 89.

“ So, basically it came down,10 points for the higher number,10 points for the lower number, that they may live longer,” said Dr. Vishal Gupta, vice chairman of the Borgess Heart Institute. “They will have less complications throughout their life, less kidney problems, less heart disease. So, basically 08:08:46 we are really improving the quality of life.”

Anyone with blood pressure in that new range should be careful, Gupta said. They also might be having symptoms.

“It could be just light fatigue, some shortness of breath on exertion. Occasional headache but that's something to remember,” he said.

Gupta said there is no reason to be alarmed by those symptoms, but anyone experiencing such changes should take action.

“There's a lot of concern because, you know, there are a lot of patients who were not hypertensive before - and are not categorized as hypertensive - and there are a lot of patients who thought they had controlled hypertension,” Gupta said. “Now, they're not in that category anymore.”

Ignoring high blood pressure could eventually lead to heart, kidney and brain problems, he said.

“I think if we look at the long-term outlook, if we start to treat earlier it's going to be a huge benefit to them.”

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