One of the nation’s top cardiac experts is hailing a new major scientific study confirming that, when it comes to high blood pressure, lower is better.
Renowned cardiologist Chauncey Crandall, M.D., tells Newsmax Health he hopes the new findings will reverse the trend toward the easing of hypertension standards – a trend he fears could lead to more heart attacks and strokes.
“When the government called for the relaxing of high blood pressure target numbers for older people back in 2013 I said that made no sense and these findings confirm that,” says Dr. Crandall, chief of the cardiac transplant program at the world-renowned Palm Beach Cardiovascular Clinic in Palm Beach Gardens.
One in three Americans, 67 million people, have high blood pressure, known also as hypertension, a condition that leads to stroke, heart failure, and heart disease.
Declaring they had “potentially lifesaving information,” federal health officials announced last week that they were ending a major study more than a year early because of its findings that blood pressure targets should be significantly lower than current recommendations – even if they must be reduced using blood pressure medications.
The new study found that using a combination of medicines to reduce systolic pressure (the upper number) to less than 120 and a diastolic pressure (the lower number) can cut the rate of heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure by almost a third.
Those reductions also cut the risk of death by nearly a quarter, compared to the commonly used definition of high blood pressure, which is 140/90, in a group of older patients at increased risk for heart disease.
Dr. Crandall notes that less than two years ago, a consortium of health officials had recommended even laxer hypertension standards for Americans age 60 and over.
That group, known as the In Eighth Joint National Committee (JNC8), is charged with updating high blood pressure standards. In its recommendations, the panel said that while a blood pressure reading of under 140/90 for people ages 30 to 59 was still recommended, people age 60 and over should be put on drugs only if their blood pressure is at least 150/90.
At that time, Dr. Crandall sharply criticized the recommendation, which he called “confusing,” and warning that it could endanger the lives of millions of Americans by putting them at risk of heart attack and stroke.
Dr. Crandall, author of the Heart Health Report, has also long contended that the current 140/90 blood pressure target is too lax as well.
“We should be using 120/80 as the target goal. This is attainable through the use of the excellent medications we have or, ideally, through lifestyle changes,” he says.
“Over my 30 years of practice it’s been recognized that hypertension is the culprit for stroke and heart attack and needs to be treated correctly. The 120/80 target is the goal that we work towards achieve with all of our patients.”
If federal blood pressure guidelines are changed because of this study – as many experts believe will happen – the U.S. death rate from heart attacks and stroke could drop even more than it has in recent decades, researchers said.
Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 cause of death, so changing blood pressure recommendations could also reduce the nation’s overall mortality rate.