Higher Blood Pressure Target Linked to Greater Stroke Risk

The risk of stroke could be elevated by increasing the systolic blood pressure threshold from 140 to 150 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) as a guideline for starting high blood pressure treatment in older people.

A study of 1,750 healthy people ages 60 and older found that participants with systolic blood pressure at 140 mm Hg and above at the beginning of the trial were 70 percent more likely to have a stroke than adults with systolic pressure below 140 mm Hg.

Researchers also found that raising the target for high blood pressure treatment by 10 mm Hg would cause an even greater risk of stroke among African Americans and Hispanics. The study, published in Hypertension in March 2016, was conducted in response to a 2014 report from the Eighth Joint National Committee, which made the controversial recommendation that the threshold be raised to 150 mm Hg.

Since high blood pressure can be successfully treated by medication and lifestyle changes, the study authors maintain that current guidelines from the American Heart Association be followed. The guidelines recommend treatment for people with systolic pressure greater than 140 mm Hg. Keeping the threshold at this level may not only reduce the incidence of stroke but should also improve cardiovascular health.