(CNN) – High blood pressure, or hypertension, affects about a third of adults in the United States according to the CDC, and only about half of them have it under control. Many do not know they have it at all.
Now, there are new guidelines for high blood pressure treatment. Adults 60 and older have twice the rate of hypertension as the general population, according to the CDC’s national center for health statistics.
Now, the American college of physicians and the American academy of family physicians have adopted new guidelines for the treatment of high blood pressure in people aged 60 and older.
Those with a history of stroke or heart attack should aim for a target systolic blood pressure below 140. Technically the lower limit for what is considered high blood pressure.
The guidelines say older Americans without these risk factors should aim for a number below 150. If systolic numbers fall between 140 and 150, still considered high by many doctors, it may not be worth treating them at all.
On one hand, aiming for lower systolic pressure may reduce the chance of stroke, heart attack and other cardiac problems. However it doesn’t seem to change the overall death rate or quality of life.
Increasing medication may also raise certain risks, such as fainting or abnormal kidney function.
Health experts say it’s about weighing the harms and the benefits of treatment and working out what’s best for the patient.