The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has published a draft updated guideline on the diagnosis and treatment of high blood pressure (hypertension).

The new plans are in keeping with the NHS Long Term Plan, hoping to improve outcomes in cardiovascular disease (CVD), including preventing strokes and heart attacks, through better detection and treatment of high blood pressure.

The biggest change to the previous guidance published in 2011 is that the threshold for CVD risk at which treatment for high blood pressure should be considered has been reduced.

The new guideline also recommends that blood pressure lowering drugs should be offered to people aged under 80 with a diagnosis of stage 1 hypertension who have an estimated 10-year risk of CVD of 10% or more, meaning that in total about 450,000 men and 270,000 women could now qualify for treatment.

The risk assessment score is based on various factors such as smoking, obesity, alcohol, age, sex and family history.

“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 of lives and years spent in ill-health. That’s why we’ve set new national ambitions to improve the detection and management of high blood pressure within the next decade," said Professor Jamie Waterall, national lead for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention at Public Health England.

"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.”

In 2015, it was reported that in England, high blood pressure affected more than one in four adults - around 13.5 million people - and contributed to 75,000 deaths.