Making sense of conflicting blood pressure advice

WASHINGTON — New and conflicting advice from reputable health organizations about when to begin addressing high blood pressure might be confusing, but a local health expert offers assurances, noting there is no “one size fits all” solution.

“These are guidelines, and they’re something for us to consider in the care of patients. They’re not necessarily gospel,” said the chief of cardiology at MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute, Dr. Allen Taylor.

“It’s worth a conversation with your doctor to know what’s the right number for you,” Taylor said.

Jointly developed guidelines released last month from the American College of Physicians and the American Academy of Family Physicians set a higher bar for blood pressure numbers at which people 60 or older should begin to address hypertension.

Their ‘initiate action’ number is 150 over 90 (mm Hg).

The American Heart Association is among groups that recommend people up to age 80 work to lower blood pressure once it reaches 140 over 90 or higher.

“These new recommendations, I would say, should not deter parents from seeking attention for blood pressure if it’s in this borderline range between 140 over 90 and 150 over 90,” Taylor said. “So, don’t take this to mean your blood pressure doesn’t need treatment. There’s lots of way to approach this, including with lifestyle.”

Popping a pill to lower blood pressure isn’t a preferred first choice, according to Taylor, because it fails to address potential lifestyle issues that could be causing or exacerbating hypertension.

Natural ways to lower blood pressure include:

  • Avoid tobacco
  • Limit alcohol
  • Cut back on salt
  • Reduce stress
  • Exercise

Taylor recommends people begin to check their blood pressure regularly once they get past their 30s or 40s — “annual or semi-annual checks of blood pressure, to make sure they’re not developing high blood pressure, because of the increasing prevalence of high blood pressure as we age,” Taylor said.

Uncontrolled and undetected high blood pressure can lead to stroke, loss of vision, kidney failure, erectile dysfunction and heart failure.

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2021 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up