Nightly News   |  December 18, 2013

Cardiologists concerned over new blood pressure guidelines

A government-appointed panel is offering new guidelines for prescribing blood pressure medication, suggesting that medicine is only needed when blood pressure levels are 150 over 90 in adults 60 years of age and older. NBC’s Dr. Nancy Snyderman reports.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> as we mentioned before the break the health news tonight is about treating high blood pressure . it's controversial. there are new guidelines out tonight, the first of their kind in 30 years. they could mean fewer americans will be taking medses to get their numbers down if their doctors go along and follow these guidelines. our report on all of it from our chief medical editor dr. nancy snyderman .

>> reporter: it's the most chronic common medical condition in the united states leading to heart attack , stroke and kidney failure. one in three americans has high blood pressure . right now doctors prescribe medication if blood pressure exceeds 140 over 90. but the new guidelines today give people over the age of 60 a lilttle leeway with no reason to treat until it is 150/90. the old thresholds of 140/90 stands for others. the new guidelines may reduce the burden on older americans who already take a lot of pills for a variety of ailments.

>> patients may get side effects from different medicines. there may be drug- drug interactions . the complexity of taking so many different drugs really makes it difficult for many patients to adhere to the regimen that their doctors prescribe.

>> reporter: also, blood pressure medication has side effects . the most common -- dizziness, dry mouth, fainting and falls. but leading cardiologists are raising concerns about the new recommendationses.

>> the american heart association has a simple message to patients. this is not the time to relax about this silent killer. get your blood pressure checked. get it treated. get it treated enough. the target that the american heart association recommends is less than 140/90.

>> reporter: if you are already on high blood pressure medications and are tolerating them well today's recommendations don't change anything for you. if you are borderline hypertensive and don't want to take medications make simple lifestyle changes like limiting salt, getting exercise and, for heaven's sake, don't smoke. sometimes you can avoid the medications all together. but if they are recommended people are better on them.

>> a lot of changes in old rules. nancy snyderman , thank