What Blood Pressure Is Too High? Updated Guidelines Show Hypertension Medications Aren’t Necessary for Many

What Blood Pressure Is Too High? Updated Guidelines Show Hypertension Medications Aren’t Necessary for ManyHaving elevated blood pressure is dangerous, but how do you know what blood pressure is too high? In 2014, the recommendation for target blood pressure readings changed and increased the reading that justifies using hypertension medications. You’ll want to avoid these potentially harmful drugs if you can.

When are hypertension medications recommended?

The Eighth Joint National Committee published a report in the journal JAMA in February 2014 that gave evidence-based recommendations on blood pressure management. 

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Previous recommendations said that anyone over the age of 60 with a blood pressure over 140/90 mmHg required treatment. But in the new guidelines, the committee raised the target systolic blood pressure to 150 mmHg.[1]

This change was based on evidence that treatment with medication at a target level of 150 mmHg reduces the risk for serious effects like stroke and heart attack, and that the lower goal of 140 mmHg in those over age 60 conferred no additional benefit over this new, higher goal.[1] A study found that treatment with high blood pressure drugs did not reduce total mortality, stroke, coronary heart disease, or cardiovascular events like heart attacks in people with mild hypertension, for example.[2]

It should be noted that there are two exceptions to the new recommendation: people over 60 who have diabetes or chronic kidney disease are still advised to aim for 140/90 mmHg.[1]

Researchers have estimated that this guideline change means that the percentage of US older adults needing hypertension medications will decrease from about 69% to 61%. This roughly correlates to about 5.8 million US adults who are no longer classified as needing treatment for their hypertension.[3]

Avoid the risks of drugs for hypertension drugs if you can

Medications for hypertension can come with serious side effects. ACE inhibitors, one class of blood pressure drug, can cause persistent coughing, dangerous fluid build up, high potassium levels, and more. Diuretics also have serious side effects like kidney failure, higher risk of hospitalizations, low sodium, and increased cholesterol levels. Older people who take antihypertensive medications are also at an increased risk for falls and fractures. Learn more here.

Don’t ignore high blood pressure, just use natural strategies instead of drugs

High blood pressure is nothing to take lightly, and you don’t want to leave elevated blood pressure readings untreated; don’t mistake these updated guidelines as permission to have higher blood pressure.

But the side effects of high blood pressure drugs should be avoided when possible.

So when your doctor recommends a high blood pressure medication, make sure to ask questions and consider your options. If you are an adult over 60 and your blood pressure is below 150 mmHg systolic and 90 mmHg diastolic, medication isn’t even recommended (which your doctor may or may not tell you).

If it is only slightly above those numbers, tell your doctor that you would like some time to try natural solutions instead to see if you can lower your numbers on your own, without the risks associated with drug treatment. Set up a plan with your healthcare provider, and make an appointment for a follow up visit to monitor your progress. There are many natural options out there that will likely work for you.

The ideal blood pressure reading that we all should aim for is under 120 mmHg systolic and 80 mmHg diastolic.

Share your experience

Have you had success lowering blood pressure without drugs? What worked for you? What didn’t? Share your experience in the comments section below.


[1] JAMA. 2014 Feb 5;311(5):507-20.

[2] Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Aug 15;8:CD006742.

[3] JAMA. 2014 Apr 9;311(14):1424-9.

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