Is There a Magic Number for High Pressure?

New Guidelines Recommend Higher Targets for Older Adults

Washington, D.C., January 24, 2016One in three adults in the U.S. has high blood pressure. That number climbs to two in three for older adults.

Recently, two medical groups released recommendations that set safe blood pressure targets higher than ever for adults 60 and older – a group at high risk for complications from high blood pressure.

Traditionally, the threshold for high blood pressure has been set at 140/90 mm/Hg. But the new guidelines, from the American College of Physicians and the American Academy of Family Physicians, state that patients older than 60 should begin treatment if their systolic blood pressure (top number) reaches 150. If the patient has high cardiovascular risk or a history of stroke, treatment should begin at 140.

The new recommendations come after a series of studies that show that a lower systolic blood pressure increases heart-health benefits for adults 60 and older, including reduced risk of heart attack and stroke. The Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT) in 2015 found that targeting a blood pressure of 120 or lower was more effective to reduce the rates of major cardiovascular events than targeting 140.

“It’s difficult to draw absolute conclusions from these studies for a variety of reasons,” said Allen J. Taylor, MD, chief of Cardiology with MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. “It’s important to remember that blood pressure doesn’t just measure pressure. It’s also a marker for other things going on in your body, such as stress, heredity factors, diet and exercise.” 

Dr. Taylor concluded that there’s no magic blood pressure number that applies to everyone. “Your health history and lifestyle greatly influence your heart health and what’s safe for you. Work with your doctor to monitor and effectively manage your blood pressure.”

The guidelines were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and the Annals of Family Medicine.

About MedStar Washington Hospital Center:
MedStar Washington Hospital Center is a 926-bed, major teaching and research hospital. It is the largest private, not-for-profit hospital in the nation’s capital, among the 100 largest hospitals in the nation and a major referral center for treating the most complex cases. U.S.News & World Report consistently ranks the hospital’s cardiology and heart surgery program as one of the nation’s best. It also is a respected top facility in the areas of cancer, diabetes & endocrinology, Ear, Nose & Throat, gastroenterology & GI surgery, geriatrics, gynecology, nephrology, pulmonology and urology. It operates MedSTAR, a nationally-verified level I trauma center with a state-of-the-art fleet of helicopters and ambulances, and also operates the region’s only adult Burn Center.

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New Online Tool Allows Patients to Make Informed Heart Care Decisions

MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute at MedStar Washington Hospital Center is one of only two hospitals in the nation selected to partner with the American College of Cardiology (ACC) on the Find Your Heart a Home™ pilot program. This project will help patients when they are trying to choose the right hospital for their heart care.

Find Your Heart a Home is a first-of-its-kind online tool that allows patients and caregivers to search and compare hospitals based on the cardiac services they provide and the quality of care they deliver.  The database is populated with information from the National Cardiovascular Data Registry.  This registry tracks the results of certain heart care procedure such as cardiac catheterizations, angioplasty and implantable cardiac defibrillators.  The tool is part of ACC’s CardioSmart initiative, a website full of educational information and tools to help guide patients on their heart health journey.

“Patients need and deserve access to accurate information that helps them make informed decisions,” said Allen J. Taylor, MD, chief of Cardiology at MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute.  “In this era of healthcare transparency, patients and their families want access to credible information about quality of care when they are choosing hospitals.  Consumers use online search tools to make decisions about everything from restaurants to hotels, but until recently, it has been difficult to find useful and understandable information online about hospitals. As health care becomes more and more transparent, this is changing, and MedStar is proud to be leading the way.”

“MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute is a pioneer in this effort to give patients the tools they need to become an active participant when mapping out their cardiac care plan,” said ACC President Kim Allan Williams, MD, FACC. “They are showing a true commitment to transparency and quality and serving as an example to hospitals across the country.”

The registry rates MedStar Washington Hospital Center, the founding hospital of MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute, based on 1,810 cardiac cath and angioplasty procedures, and 520 implanted cardiac defibrillators.  For each aspect of care evaluated, the Hospital Center’s performance earned the maximum four stars.

MedStar Washington Hospital Center’s heart data can be found here, or visit