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New Recommendations for Hypertension Management Released

December 18, 2013

New recommendations published online in the Journal of the American Medical AssociationExternal Link aim to provide guidance on the management of patients with hypertension. More specifically, the recommendations focus on when medication should be started in patients, the best choices for medications to begin treatment; and communicating achievable blood pressure goals to patients.

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"Patients want to be assured that blood pressure (BP) treatment will reduce their disease burden, while clinicians want guidance on hypertension management using the best scientific evidence. This report takes a rigorous, evidence-based approach to recommend treatment thresholds, goals, and medications in the management of hypertension in adults," the report authors note.

The report, written by panel members appointed to the Eighth Joint National Committee, notes there is strong evidence to support treating hypertensive persons aged 60 years or older to a BP goal of less than 150/90 mm Hg and hypertensive persons 30 through 59 years of age to a diastolic goal of less than 90 mm Hg. However, given insufficient evidence in hypertensive persons younger than 60 years for a systolic goal, or in those younger than 30 years for a diastolic goal, the panel recommends a BP of less than 140/90 mm Hg for those groups. "The same thresholds and goals are recommended for hypertensive adults with diabetes or nondiabetic chronic kidney disease (CKD) as for the general hypertensive population younger than 60 years," the report notes.

In general, the report authors note that the 140/90 mm Hg definition from Joint National Committee 7 "remains reasonable" and recommend that lifestyle interventions be used for everyone with blood pressures in this range. "For all persons with hypertension, the potential benefits of a healthy diet, weight control, and regular exercise cannot be overemphasized," they said. "These lifestyle treatments have the potential to improve BP control and even reduce medication needs."

Also in the report, the authors note there is moderate evidence to support initiating drug treatment with an angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor, angiotensin receptor blocker, calcium channel blocker, or thiazide-type diuretic in the nonblack hypertensive population, including those with diabetes. In the black hypertensive population, including those with diabetes, a calcium channel blocker or thiazide-type diuretic is recommended as initial therapy. Additionally, there is moderate evidence to support initial or add-on antihypertensive therapy with an angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor or angiotensin receptor blocker in persons with CKD to improve kidney outcomes.

Moving forward, the authors point out that an algorithm included as part of the recommendations will facilitate implementation and be useful to busy clinicians. They also suggest that "the strong evidence base of this report be used to inform quality measures for the treatment of patients with hypertension."

Practice guidelines are traditionally promulgated by the government or by learned medical professional societies. The JAMA paper is a report of a group experts in the field of hypertension, but it does not carry the endorsement of any organized body. Moving forward, these recommendations will be taken into account in the coming year as the ACC/AHA Task Force on Practice Guidelines moves forward with developing the collaborative model to update the national hypertension guidelines in partnership with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). According to the ACC and the American Heart Association (AHA), once a writing group is appointed, there will be an extensive science and evidence review process, followed by draft recommendations that will undergo a peer and stakeholder review. Once the review process is complete, the ACC/AHA and partnering organizations will publish the guidelines in 2015 for clinicians to follow as the national standard for hypertension prevention and treatment.

The ACC, AHA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a scientific advisory on the effective approach to hypertension in November that encourages use of enhanced, evidence-based, blood pressure treatment systems for providers, including standardization of protocols and algorithms, incentives for improved performance based on achieving and maintaining patients at blood pressure goals, and technology-facilitated clinical decision support and feedback.

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