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Health and wellness

Blood pressure limits in Hong Kong to be reviewed after American Heart Association announces new measurement

City’s undersecretary for food and health says there will be no immediate change as medical sector needs time to study US guideline closely

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 November, 2017, 7:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 November, 2017, 7:00am

Hong Kong will not rush to adopt a new measurement of high blood pressure set by the American Heart Association, a health official has said.

The US association announced on Monday that the measurement would now be 130/80, but Undersecretary for Food and Health Dr Chui Tak-yi said the city’s current guideline of 140/90 – 140mm Hg and higher for the systolic blood pressure measurement or readings of 90 and higher for the diastolic measurement – would only be reviewed.

“[We will] review the indicators of hypertension and look at the definition of other countries as well [as the United States],” Chui said on Tuesday. “The medical sector will need time to study it closely.”

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The US association said it recognised that complications “can occur at those lower numbers”.

The new standard means nearly half – 46 per cent – of the US population will be defined as having high blood pressure and need to receive treatment sooner.

Chui said he was unable to say how many more patients in Hong Kong would be diagnosed as having high blood pressure if the new standard was adopted or whether the medical system could cope with an increase in demand.

A lower blood pressure level is already taken into account for patients with diabetes and other illnesses, Chui said. He believed the US association had redefined the limit to improve health care services and promised Hong Kong would take similar action if it was found that it improved public well-being.

Cardiology specialist Dr Duncan Ho Hung-kwong agreed the government should not be too quick to adopt the new guidelines.

“Hong Kong is a Chinese society which has a very different lifestyle to the Americans,” Ho said. “Doctors have always prescribed drugs according to their clinical judgment rather than blindly following a guideline.”

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A family doctor said some patients with hypertension who currently take medication may need a heavier dose to bring down their blood pressure.

An insurance sector insider said there was no ‘rigid’ definition on high blood pressure in general as it would require the judgment of the doctors, but it was possible more people would not be able to buy a medical insurance package if they fell under the new definition.

The changes were announced at the American Heart Association’s 2017 Scientific Sessions conference in Anaheim, California.

The group warned that the risk of cardiovascular complications doubled when a person’s blood level reaches 130/80, compared with those at a normal level.