New U.S. blood pressure guidelines—same old story

In a shot heard ‘round the world, the new U.S. blood pressure guidelines have been released. And needless to say, not everyone’s bursting at the seams with joy about the recommendations—myself included.

The American Heart Association and their bedfellows at Big Pharma, on the other hand, are quite pleased. And if you take a step back to see the big picture, it’s easy to see why.

The new guidelines introduce lower hypertension diagnosis thresholds… In other words, you have to hit lower numbers while in the doctor’s office. And as a result, doctors are now charged with getting patients to even lower treatment targets. Which means even more people are suddenly eligible for a prescription to treat their diagnosis of now having high blood pressure.

Shocking, I know.

But seriously… is anyone surprised by this?! After SPRINT, it was only a matter of time…

As you may recall, this NIH-sponsored study pegged a systolic reading of 120 as the new 140 — and urged doctors to start shooting for that lower number — by any means necessary. (And in a lot of cases, that could mean as many as three blood pressure drugs.)

If you guessed that these latest guidelines relied heavily on SPRINT’s findings, you’d be right. Which, of course, is a big part of the problem. But I’ll circle back to that in a moment.

First, let’s take a closer look at a few of the key changes:
• The new treatment target: systolic pressure below 130/80 — down from 140/90.

“Stage 1 hypertension:”
o Now refers to blood pressure at or over 130/80 — and was previously classified as “prehypertension.”
o High risk “stage 1” patients: includes anyone with diabetes or kidney disease, as well as any stage 1 patient over age 65. These patients are now advised to start drug therapy. (And yes, the targets are the same for patients of all ages)

• “Stage 2 hypertension:”
o Now refers to blood pressure at or over 140/90 — the previous threshold for an official blood pressure diagnosis.
o “Stage 2” patients: drug treatment is recommended for all of these patients — period — regardless of risk (or age, once again).
• The new drug therapy: Any cases of high blood pressure should now include at least two medications—and that’s just to start.

Ultimately, the only positive thing in these new guidelines is a call for more accurate blood pressure measurements, taken over several visits. Though frankly, doctors should be doing that before even thinking about prescribing drugs for hypertension…

The real story here is that half of the population is now staring down a high blood pressure diagnosis. That includes a whole new set of elderly patients for whom aggressive drug treatment could be especially dangerous.

Unfortunately, this is typical of cardiologists. They care about one organ and one organ only—your heart. Granted, it’s an important one. But too much medicine can turn around and cause more problems than you had to begin with. And when you treat numbers, without considering how the patient will feel on this amount of medication, you’re not doing anyone any favors.

Except, of course, Big Pharma.

Controlling blood pressure is obviously important. That’s why I revisit my hypertension protocol in my monthly newsletter so often. In fact, I outlie it in detail in this month’s issue, which also features six all-natural supplements for healthy blood pressure. (Subscribers to Logical Health Alternatives can access my newsletters in addition to everything I’ve ever written on the subject in the archives. If you haven’t signed up yet, don’t wait any longer — simply click here today.)

But the idea that there’s a “magic number” that everyone should be aiming for — and that it should be achieved at any cost — is preposterous. A better approach would be to focus on lowering elevated blood pressure, safely and significantly, without a specific rock bottom target in mind.

It’s the same sort of advice I give to my overweight patients. Because my practice isn’t built around numbers. It’s built around people who want to improve their health.

So, if your doctor recommends you go on a blood pressure medication during your next checkup, do three things:

1) Remember what the truly safe numbers are and determine your course of action accordingly. (Lots of solid research indicates that elderly patients should aim for systolic numbers under 150 mm Hg)

2) Use natural supplementation to improve your cardiovascular health. (As I often say, prescription meds should always be a last resort. See the February issue of Logical Health Alternatives for a full list — simply log into the newsletter archives via

3) And like I mentioned yesterday, finding a doctor who treats you like an individual and — not just a number — is key. A one-size-fits-all health philosophy just doesn’t work. Your health and treatment plans should be custom to your personal needs.

For more ways to improve your heart health or lower your blood pressure, you can also search my Reality Health Check e-letter archives via my website, or subscribe to “The Dr. Fred Show” via YouTube.