Blood Pressure Guidelines Changed

Hypertension diagnosis and treatment enhanced in UK

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) European guidelines for diagnosing and treating hypertension have been dramatically revamped. This marks the first time in a century that there has been a change in the way high blood pressure is diagnosed.

The recently approved UK guidelines were issued by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) in conjunction with the British Hypertension Society.

Bryan Williams, a University of Leicester professor and chair of the NICE hypertension guidelines, said the new approach could mean that as many as 25 percent of hypertensive patients diagnosed through the current method of getting a single blood pressure reading in their doctor's office may not have high blood pressure and may not need treatment.

"Ask your physician about ambulatory monitoring."

A major change is the recommendation that hypertension be diagnosed through ambulatory monitoring, which involved having patients wear a monitor for 24 hours.

Williams said the new recommendations will provide more accuracy, and ensure that only the patients who need it will get treated.

Accompanying research published simultaneously found that the approach could be highly cost effective even after considering the cost of the new technology. The study noted implementing the effort will be "challenging," but noted that it is expected to be well received by both patients and doctors, especially since lowering blood pressure is one of the most effective ways of reducing the risk of strokes and heart attacks.

The recommended guidelines also simplify treatment strategies for hypertension, focusing on the most effective treatments. Specific advice also is included for treating high blood pressure in young adults and the very elderly. In the United Kingdom, about a quarter of all adults and half of those over the age of 60 have high blood pressure.

The guidelines were published in The Lancet.

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Review Date: 
August 26, 2011
Last Updated:
August 29, 2011