New guidelines on diagnosing high blood pressure could mean that thousands more people benefit from treatment in England and Wales.
It is thought that offering blood-pressure-lowering drugs to more people with stage-1 hypertension would help to cut heart attacks and strokes.
450,000 men and 270,000 women could qualify for the drug.
Some GPs have already expressed concerns about over-diagnosis, stating that the benefits could be limited.
They said that a range of lifestyle factors, such as weight control, diet and exercise all have an important part to play in bringing down blood pressure.
Currently, people with high blood pressure – a reading of 140/90mmHg or higher in clinic – are offered treatment if they have a 20% risk of cardiovascular disease over 10 years and are aged under 80 years old.
The new draft guidelines, announced by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), recommend that everyone with a 10% risk should now qualify.
The assessment score is based on a blood test, look at risk factors, including:
Professor Jamie Waterall, national lead for cardiovascular disease prevention at Public Health England, said:
High blood pressure is the country’s leading cause of heart attacks and strokes, yet millions remain undiagnosed.
Diagnosing high blood pressure earlier and managing it in line with NICE guidance will save thousands f lives and years spent in ill-health. That’s why we’ve set new ambitions to improve the detection and management of high blood pressure within the next decade.
If you’re over 40, getting your free NHS health check is a simple way to find out your blood pressure, as well as your risk of other serious conditions.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, said the decision to lower the threshold for a diagnosis of hypertension, or high blood pressure, ‘must not be taken lightly and must be evidence-based’.
GPs are highly trained to prescribe taking into account the guidelines but also the circumstances of the individual patient sitting in front of them, including physical, physiological and social factors that might be affecting their health.
Professor Stephen MacMahon, from the University of Oxford said:
Much lower blood pressure targets are required and multiple drugs need to be used right from the start, if patients are to achieve the largest reduction in the risks of stroke and heart attack.
BBC News. (2019). High blood pressure drugs to be offered to thousands more. Accessible: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-47488249. Last Accessed: 11 March 2019.