New High Blood Pressure Guidelines: JNC 8 Report Released

AAFP NewsNow: Summary of new JNC 8 hypertension guidelines

Per family physician Paul James, the work group focused on 3 questions:

  1. At what BP do you start medication?
  2. At what BP do you maintain medication?
  3. What are the medications (or antihypertensive drugs) that doctors should use to get to goal?

“We considered these the 3 most important questions that any doctor in American needs to know the answer to.”

Overview of Guideline’s Recommendations

The evidence review focused on studies that examined adults 18 or older with hypertension, including studies that involved numerous specified subgroups, such as patients with diabetes, coronary artery disease, previous stroke and chronic kidney disease (CKD). Studies that focused on older adults also were included, as were those that examined both men and women, various racial and ethnic groups, and smokers. The guideline panel chose to review only randomized controlled trials (RCTs) involving at least 100 subjects.

A 2/3 majority was considered acceptable, with the exception of recommendations for which no RCT evidence was eligible for review. For these areas, recommendations were based on expert opinion and required approval by 75 percent of panel participants.

Key Points:

Treatment goals:

  • In the general population ages 60 and older, pharmacologic treatment to lower BP should be initiated at a systolic blood pressure (SBP) of 150 mmHg or higher or a diastolic blood pressure (DBP) of 90 mmHg or higher.
    • Patients should be treated to a goal SBP lower than 150 mmHg and a goal DBP lower than 90 mmHg. If treatment results in lower achieved SBP and is not associated with adverse effects, treatment does not need to be adjusted.
    • In the general population younger than age 60, start pharmacologic treatment at a DBP of 90 mmHg or higher or an SBP of 140 mmHg or higher and treat to goals below these respective thresholds.
    • In the population ages 18 years or older with diabetes or CKD, start pharmacologic treatment at an SBP of 140 mmHg or higher or a DBP of 90 mmHg or higher and treat to goals below these respective thresholds.

Drug choices

    • In the general non-black population, including those with diabetes, initial treatment should include a thiazide-type diuretic, calcium channel blocker (CCB), angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor or angiotensin receptor blocker (ARB).
    • In the general black population, including those with diabetes, initial treatment should include a thiazide-type diuretic or a CCB.
    • In the population ages 18 or older with CKD and hypertension, initial (or add-on) treatment should include an ACE inhibitor or an ARB to improve kidney outcomes. This applies to all patients in this population regardless of race or diabetes status.
    • ACE inhibitors and ARBs should not be used together.

Finally, the main objective of hypertension treatment is to attain and maintain goal BP.

  1. If goal BP is not reached within a month, increase the dose of the initial drug or add a second drug from one of these four classes.
  2. Continue to assess BP and adjust the treatment regimen until goal BP is reached.
  3. If goal BP cannot be reached with two drugs, add and titrate a third drug
  4. If goal BP cannot be reached using the above-named drugs because of a contraindication or the need to use more than three such drugs to reach goal BP, antihypertensive drugs from other classes may be used.

Referral may be indicated for patients in whom goal BP cannot be reached using the above strategy or to manage complicated patients for whom additional clinical consultation is needed.

Takeaways for Family Physicians

Per Dr. James, the new guideline stands to simplify the management of high blood pressure in their patients.

  1. ” it’s going to simplify the goals (of treatment because) there are only two goals to remember.”
  2. “I do think a lot of physicians who take care of the elderly have been concerned over the years about the potential for causing harm by overtreating blood pressure.”

“It’s certainly not uncommon for elderly patients to become dizzy on standing because of the antihypertensive medication or medications they take.” Such patients, James noted, are at an increased risk for falls and their sequelae.  From that perspective alone, he noted, “I think many people who take care of the very elderly will think these guidelines make more sense.”

“One thing that family doctors may not realize is that beta blockers, which are a tried-and-true and beloved medication for treating high blood pressure, actually got pushed down to the second tier. That may come as a surprise to many of them.”