A major new study has shown that treating blood pressure more aggressively than usual, cuts the risk of heart disease and death in people over age 50, the National Institutes of Health said yesterday.
Though there was much controversy about how tightly hypertension needed to be controlled, especially as people got older, the preliminary results of the study showed strong enough benefits that NIH stopped the research about a year early.
According to Dr Gary Gibbons director of the NIH's National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute which sponsored the study, more intensive management of high blood pressure in people 50 years and older could save lives and reduce cardiovascular complications such as heart attacks.
An estimated 1 in 3 adults in the US suffer from high blood pressure, which upped the risk of heart attacks, stroke, kidney failure and other health problems.
Normal blood pressure is at 120 over 80 and high blood pressure was diagnosed when the measurement reaches or passes 140 over 90. Only about half of the US' hypertension patients had their blood pressure under control.
Starting in 2010, the SPRINT study - the Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial - enrolled over 9,300 people 50 and older who were diagnosed at increased risk for heart or kidney disease.
Half received an average of about two medications with the goal of lowering their systolic pressure below 140, while the other received an average of three medications with aimed at getting the blood pressure below 120.
Patients reaching the lower level saw their risk of death drop by almost 25 per cent as against the less aggressively treated patients, according to the study investigators. Their rates of cardiovascular problems were down almost 30 per cent.
''Our results provide important evidence that treating blood pressure to a lower goal in older or high-risk patients can be beneficial and yield better health results overall,'' said Lawrence Fine, head of the clinical applications and prevention branch at NHLBI, The Hindustan Times reported.
But, he added, ''Patients should talk to their doctor to determine whether this lower goal is best for their individual care''
However, the study warned that individuals with diabetes, prior stroke, or polycystic kidney disease were not covered.