The American Heart Association’s recent decision — to lower the baseline blood pressure parameters and redefine high blood pressure as a reading of 130/80, down from 140/90 — has been welcomed by various city-based cardiologists and surgeons.
There was a need to tighten the definition of high blood pressure, said Dr A B Chandorkar, interventional cardiologist who has been actively involved in setting up norms and methods of primary prevention.
The new guidelines create categories including ‘elevated’, ‘Stage 1 and 2 hypertension’ and ‘hypertensive crisis’, for blood pressure readings. Normal blood pressure still will be considered 120 over 80.
“Hypertension is the most prevalent public health issue that contributes to the maximum number of deaths and disease. Our understanding of hypertension has been dynamic and concepts get redefined with new evidence.
Experienced doctors have come up time and again with new guidelines. In 2003, the JNC 7 or the seventh report of the Joint National Committee’s report on prevention, detection, evaluation and treatment of high blood pressure had shown that starting from 110/75, every addition of blood pressure by 20 mm systolic and 10 mm diastolic would double the risk of heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure,” said Chandorkar.
While systolic reading refers to the pressure when the heart contracts and sends blood through the arteries, diastolic pressure is measured when the heart relaxes between beats.
These recent guidelines by the AHA and others, after conducting exhaustive studies, have shown that the blood pressure level to be aimed at is 130/80, especially among individuals at risk of heart attack, diabetes or stroke. For people who are at a high risk for developing heart disease over a period of time, it is crucial to work aggressively to lower their blood pressure level to 130/80. People with risk factors like obesity, tobacco usage and others also need to reasonably maintain blood pressure levels at 130/80, added the cardiologist.
Dr Sanjeev Jadhav, heart and lung transplant surgeon, said that the guidelines were issued to identify major risk factors that can be damaging to the heart, kidney and brain. This does not mean that one should start taking medications to lower blood pressure to 120/80, but one should remain on guard, check with the cardiologist, change his/her lifestyle and take necessary precautions to reduce stress and keep blood pressure in check.
Blood pressure is a problem related to lifestyle issues today. Studies have shown that if blood pressure is tightly controlled, it helps in preventing long-term vascular complications on various organs. Benefits are more when the target is 130/80 than over 140/90, said diabetologist Dr Abhay Mutha, adding that lifestyle changes are a must.