Millions could go off blood pressure meds: US study

WASHINGTON - One in four American adults over 60 being treated for high blood pressure could go off their medication under recent guidelines issued in the United States, a study said Saturday.

The changes, which stirred controversy in the medical community, could mean nearly six million may no longer need drugs to control their blood pressure, Duke University researchers said in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The findings are the first to analyse the impact of 2014 guidelines that raised blood pressure targets to 150/90, instead of the previous goal of 140/90, in adults age 60 and older.

"Raising the target in older adults is controversial, and not all experts agree with this new recommendation," said lead author Ann Marie Navar-Boggan, a cardiology fellow at the Duke University School of Medicine.

"In this study, we wanted to determine the number of adults affected by these changes." The guidelines were issued by the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure.

Analysing 2005-2010 data on 16,000 people in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Duke researchers found the proportion of US adults considered eligible for hypertension treatment would dip from 40.6 per cent under the old guidelines to 31.7 per cent under the new ones.

In addition, 13.5 million adults - most of them over the age of 60 - would no longer be considered in a danger zone.

Of that group, 5.8 million adults would no longer need blood pressure pills.

"The new guidelines do not address whether these adults should still be considered as having hypertension," Navar-Boggan said.

"But they would no longer need medication to lower their blood pressure."