By now, we’ve all had time to reflect upon the new guidelines indicating hypertension begins at 130/80, rather than 140/90, immediately upping the affected population from 72 million Americans to 103 million.
While, at a first glance, this news may come as a blow to medical professionals who have the task of providing 46% of U.S. adults (up from 32%) with clinical advice and assistance, it’s actually positive news for both clinicians and patients. As we all know, blood pressure is an extraordinarily good indicator of present and future health as there’s a correlation between high blood pressure and heart attacks, stroke and long-term cardiac damage. These new guidelines will make physicians more acutely aware of people who are on the borderline, and who may require additional treatment and focus. For newly diagnosed patients, it’s an advanced warning to take early warning signs more seriously.
POPULAR ONLINE: Payers becoming extreme headache for physicians
The updated guidelines mean there’s an even greater need for clinicians to emphasize blood pressure control, and to work more closely with patients to overcome barriers they are experiencing in managing their conditions. Because, while high blood pressure is typically easy to treat, there are many variables that can prevent success. The key is identifying the best course of treatment for each individual patient.
The first solution that comes to mind may be pharmacological, but intervention can take many other forms. These new guidelines are about so much more than how drugs can help. They’re about leading healthier lives. Improving diet (though, don’t place too much emphasis on salt reduction), increasing exercise and making better lifestyle choices should be the primary focus, as each have shown to improve blood pressure numbers. Physicians should also encourage patients to pay closer attention to their blood pressure on a more consistent basis by taking regular readings at home with a device approved by healthcare providers. The numbers recorded once a year at annual appointments are only so effective in getting a good read on someone’s health.
MORE HEALTHCARE NEWS: Physicians struggle to manage quality measures
Although our focus shouldn’t immediately turn to prescription drugs, people are historically very poor at following diet and exercise recommendations. The pharma approach is a needed (and successful) alternative should lifestyle-based efforts fail. Additionally, depending on a patient’s individual circumstance, medication may not only be recommended, but critical—for instance, if a patient has any kind of cardiovascular disease or a significant risk of developing one.