New research is being considered that could see nearly half the UK’s population taking drugs to control blood pressure.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) said it is currently reviewing its hypertension guidelines and is due to update them in August 2019.
It comes as new guidelines in the US saw the thresholds for being diagnosed with hypertension lowered, meaning that an extra 14 per cent of people would be diagnosed with the condition, according to GP magazine Pulse. This would bring the number of people with hypertension to 46 per cent of the country’s population, it said.
Nice guidelines currently recommend offering anti-hypertensive drug treatment to those of any age with stage two hypertension or high blood pressure. Nice defines stage one hypertension as an average blood pressure of 135/85 mmHg or higher and stage two as 150/95 mmHg or higher. Persistent high blood pressure can increase the risk of heart disease, strokes, heart failure and heart attacks.
A Nice spokeswoman said: “Our advisory committee will follow the evidence and apply our normal process for making their recommendations, which takes into account costs and benefits and which will be subject to consultation in due course.”
The move comes in the wake of a study published last week which found having a healthy diet does not offset the effects of eating larger amounts of salt.
The research found those who ate higher amounts of salt had higher blood pressure, no matter how healthy their overall diet.
Maureen Talbot, senior cardiac nurse at charity the British Heart Foundation, said: “High blood pressure, often nicknamed the silent killer, affects nearly 30 per cent of adults in the UK. As high blood pressure often goes unnoticed, it’s important for doctors to find those affected because, without treatment, patients are at increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
“You can lower your blood pressure through lifestyle changes, for example increasing your physical activity, losing weight and reducing the salt in your diet. But, if lifestyle changes are not enough, your doctor can prescribe medication to help control it.
“The role of Nice is to assess changes in evidence, new treatments and review guidelines for conditions like high blood pressure, so this review is appropriate.
“However, it does not mean the changes that were made in the US will be made to guidelines in the UK.”