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Wednesday, 24 August 2011

New UK guidelines on managing high blood pressure

High blood pressure is a major preventable and treatable risk factor for heart disease and stroke syndromes both in the developed and the developing world.

In an innovative partnership between a UK government agency - the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) - and a professional organisation - the British Hypertension Society (BHS), NICE guidelines for managing hypertension in primary care were first issued in 2006. Key elements to those guidelines included a stepped care approach starting with different first line options for younger vs. older patients with a 55 year age boundary, and for patients of black African or Carribean origin compared to other ethnic groups. The 2006 guidelines also highlighted risks of new onset diabetes mellitus from beta-blocker treatment.

On 24th August, five years on, NICE, again supported by experts from the BHS, has released updated hypertension guidelines which include several key developments of interest to prescribers and patients. These include adding blood pressure measurements away from the clinical setting to confirm the diagnosis for patients with mild to moderate increases in clinic blood pressure readings. With even higher office readings, advice remains to treat based on those office readings. There is detailed advice both on blood pressure measurement using ambulatory devices as well as more systematic involvement of patients in their own management, supported by home blood pressure readings. It is of course important that any blood pressure monitoring device, whether for clinical or home use, should be validated. A helpful list of validated devices is is listed on the British Hypertension Society's website.

As an update on treatment options, the new 2011 guidelines now suggest systematic use of calcium channel blockers as first line treatment in older patients, with now specific, named diuretics as alternative options for specified indications. The 2011 guidelines for the first time also highlight the clinical and cost effectiveness of evidence-based treatment of hypertension in older patients, and in particular the over 80s.

For more information, see the summary documents and more detailed reports on the NICE website.

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