A recent landmark health study found that lowering blood pressure more than the recommended target of 140 could significantly reduce the rate of deaths in patients over 50. In fact, patients with high blood pressure who lowered their systolic blood pressure — the top number of your blood pressure measurement — to 120 decreased the risk of heart attack, heart failure and stroke by 30 percent and the risk of death by 25 percent.
Close to one-third of American adults suffer from high blood pressure, a key risk factor for heart attacks, stroke, kidney failure and a myriad other health concerns.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) prematurely ended the nationwide study — the SPRINT study, in which they followed nearly 10,000 patients being treated for high blood pressure — because of the significance of the findings.
Half of the study’s participants were treated with the goal of lowering their systolic blood pressure to below 140, and the other half received care with the goal of reaching a measurement below 120. The study showed that lowering blood pressure to 120 or below had extraordinary health benefits.
“The entire medical community, including myself and the investigators of the study, are surprised by these findings,” says Dr. Mariusz Wysoczanski, a cardiologist affiliated with Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center. “It's not often that we see studies stopped prematurely due to such a significant benefit.”
Using, on average, two types of medication to reduce blood pressure for the group with a target of 140 and three medications for the group with the lower target of 120, the study revealed that the more aggressive treatment resulted in substantial benefits and lives saved. Once published, the complete study data will likely lead to a revision of blood pressure targets and alter the way hypertension is treated.
“These results have already changed my treatment protocols,” says Dr. Wysoczanski. “Following the nuances of medicine helps me provide novel therapy to my patients.”
However, Wysoczanski advises that there are potential adverse effects of all blood pressure–reducing agents, so any medication changes should be closely monitored. Furthermore, blood pressure lowering is tolerated differently from person to person, which should be considered when modifying treatment.
Wysoczanski points out that the study’s researchers also used lifestyle modifications, such as decreasing salt intake and implementing a healthy diet and exercise, to lower participants’ blood pressure, which should be included in future research and is a good general practice for those with high blood pressure.
If you have any concerns about your blood pressure or have hypertension, speak with your doctor about appropriate treatment options.
For the news media: To speak with Dr. Wysoczanski about blood pressure management for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.