New guidelines ease up on the target number to treat high blood pressure in otherwise-healthy older adults. The guidelines from the American College of Physicians and the American Academy of Family Physicians were published Jan. 17, 2017, in Annals of Internal Medicine. Instead of recommending treatment for people ages 60 or older when the systolic measurement (the top number) is at or above 140 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), the new target is now 150 mm Hg or higher. The physician groups point to evidence suggesting that the higher number is enough to reduce the risk of death, stroke, or heart attack in otherwise-healthy older adults. They say lower (more aggressive) targets provide little benefit unless a person has a history of stroke or a high risk of heart problems (from risk factors such as high cholesterol, obesity, and diabetes). In that case, the guidelines recommend treatment at or above 140 mm Hg. These new numbers are considered controversial; the American Heart Association still recommends aiming for a blood pressure reading of less than 140/80 mm Hg. Bottom line: Optimal blood pressure targets must be tailored to your individual needs. Ask your doctor what's right for you.
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