Prepare to Be Handed a New Rx Due to These ‘Scary’ Numbers

Millions of Americans just got targeted for blood pressure meds

(HEADLINE HEALTH) The American Heart Association just added millions of men and women to the target market for blood pressure medications.

New AHA guidelines define high blood pressure as a systolic pressure of 130 or more. The previous threshold for hypertension diagnosis was 140.

This means that at their next doctor visit, millions of Americans previously considered to have healthy blood pressure levels will be handed a prescription to take a drug to lower it.

How many Americans are we talking about? “Those numbers are scary,” said Dr. Robert M. Carey, co-chair of the committee that wrote the new guidelines.

Even though blood pressure can be lowered without drugs, millions of Americans take pills for their blood pressure.

Their ranks about are to swell significantly, meaning people who have enjoyed a drug-free lifestyle will now be told they need to take a prescription, most likely for the rest of their lives.

According to the National Institutes of Health, common side effects of high blood pressure medicines include:

  • Cough
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Erection problems
  • Feeling nervous
  • Feeling tired, weak, drowsy, or a lack of energy
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Skin rash
  • Weight loss or gain without trying

What the government has not explained is why drugs that carry all these side effects are even legal, especially when the same or better results can typically be achieved through simple improvements in diet and exercise.

For more on this breaking story, see the continuing coverage below.

Under New Guidelines, Millions More Americans Will Need to Lower Blood Pressure

(GINA KOLATA, NEW YORK TIMES) The nation’s leading heart experts on Monday issued new guidelines for high blood pressure that mean tens of millions more Americans will meet the criteria for the condition, and will need to change their lifestyles or take medicines to treat it.

Under the guidelines, formulated by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, the number of men under age 45 with a diagnosis of high blood pressure will triple, and the prevalence among women under age 45 will double.

“Those numbers are scary,” said Dr. Robert M. Carey, professor of medicine at the University of Virginia and co-chair of the committee that wrote the new guidelines.

The number of adults with high blood pressure, or hypertension, will rise to 103 million from 72 million under the previous standard. But the number of people who are new candidates for drug treatment will rise only by an estimated 4.2 million people, he said. To reach the goals others may have to take more drugs or increase the dosages.

Now, high blood pressure will be defined as 130/80 millimeters of mercury or greater for anyone with a significant risk of heart attack or stroke. The previous guidelines defined high blood pressure as 140/90. (The first number describes the pressure on blood vessels when the heart contracts, and the second refers to the pressure as the heart relaxes between beats.)

Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death among Americans. The new criteria, the first official diagnostic revision since 2003, result from growing evidence that blood pressure far lower than had been considered normal greatly reduces the chances of heart attack and stroke, as well as the overall risk of death. Read the full story at the New York Times. Also of interest: These Painkillers May Boost Blood Pressure in Arthritis Patients