Raised blood pressure is the biggest single contributor to the global burden of disease and to global mortality. The numbers of people affected and the prevalence of high blood pressure worldwide are expected to increase over the next decade. Preventive strategies are therefore urgently needed, especially in less developed countries, and management of hypertension must be optimised. Genetic advances in some rare causes of hypertension have been made lately, but the aggregate effect on blood pressure of all the genetic loci identified to date is small. Hence, intervention on key environmental determinants and effective implementation of trial-based therapies are needed. Three-drug combinations can control hypertension in about 90% of patients but only if resources allow identification of patients and drug delivery is affordable. Furthermore, assessment of optimal drug therapy for each ethnic group is needed.
Recent guidelines on diagnosis and management of high blood pressure (BP) include substantial changes and several new concepts compared with previous guidelines. These are reviewed and their clinical implications are discussed in this article. The goal is to provide a practical reference to assist clinicians with up-to-date management of patients with high BP. Important issues include new diagnostic thresholds, out-of-office BP monitoring, intensified treatment goals, and a different approach to resistant hypertension. Finally, differences among guidelines, the persistent controversies that have led to them, and their implications for clinical practice are discussed.
For most of its history medicine has not been a matter of numbers. Just as an early modern physician felt entirely justified in diagnosing without a fine-level grasp of anatomy, so he could confidently prognosticate and prescribe without a great deal of quantifying. Although the classical tradition took a close interest in the movement of blood, seeing it as a kind of nutritious tide originating in the liver, practitioners were more concerned with pulse rate and quality-hard, soft, languid-as markers of general health.