In a recent study, doctors found big benefits when they gave patients medications that aimed to reduce their systolic blood pressure – the top number in a blood pressure reading – to 120 milligrams of mercury or less.(Photo: Toby Talbot, AP)
A new study finds that aggressive treatment of high blood pressure reduced the risk of death by 25%, a finding that could lead millions more Americans to take medications.
Doctors found big benefits when they gave patients medications that aimed to reduce their systolic blood pressure – the top number in a blood pressure reading – to 120 milligrams of mercury or less. Today, doctors aim to get most patients’ systolic blood pressure below 140.
Reducing systolic blood pressure also reduced the risk of problems such as heart disease, heart failure and stroke by 30%, according to researchers from the National Institutes of Health.
“More intensive management of high blood pressure in people 50 years and older can save lives and reduce cardiovascular complications like strokes,” said Gary Gibbons, director of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, part of the NIH, which funded the trial. The study, the largest of its kind, included more than 9,300 people age 50 and over. Drug companies also donated two of the drugs used in the study.
Patients began the study with a blood pressure of about 140, taking an average of about two medications. Those who lowered their systolic blood pressure below 120 took an average of three medications.
About one in three Americans – around 70 million people – have high blood pressure, and only half of them have their blood pressure under control, Gibbons said. High blood pressure increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease and other serious problems. Doctors will continue to follow patients to see whether lowering blood pressure also reduces their risk of dementia, memory loss and kidney disease.
Doctors aren’t yet recommending that more patients take blood pressure medication or that doctors change their practice, said Jackson Wright, a study leader and director of the clinical hypertension program at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. That’s because these results are preliminary and haven’t yet been published.
NIH researchers did not provide any details about how many lives were saved or the side effects of lowering blood pressure so dramatically.
“These results have not been peer-reviewed and they should be considered …Read More