US researchers have some good news for people above 50 dealing with high blood pressure. They have found a new systolic target they should aim for and it’s 120mm, much lower than the current 140mm.
The new low was found to have reduced rates of cardiovascular problems, such as heart attacks and failure, by a third, and of death by a quarter, in a large study covering 9,300 individuals aged 50 and above.
“This study provides potentially lifesaving information that will be useful to health care providers as they consider the best treatment options for some of their patients, particularly those over the age of 50,” said Gary H Gibbons, MD, director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), the primary sponsor of the study.
The findings were considered so significant that they were announced a year before the pre-arranged closure date. “NIH (National Institutes of Health — something like AIIMS) stopped the blood pressure intervention earlier than originally planned in order to quickly disseminate the significant preliminary results,” the study’s sponsor said in a statement.
Systolic blood pressure measure — the higher reading — of under 140mm Hg has long been recommended as the target for healthy adults (130mm for those with diabetes and kidney diseases) the world over, including India.
Called SPRINT (Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial), the study started in 2009 and covered more than 9,300 individuals recruited from all over the US and Puerto Rico.
They were split into two groups. One group received medication aimed at achieving systolic blood pressure of 140mm and under. They received an average of two different blood pressure medicines, said the announcement. The other group was given an average of three medications, targeted at 120mm.
“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.
But, he added, “Patients should talk to their doctor to determine whether this lower goal is best for their individual care”.
The researchers also warned that the study did not cover individuals with patients with diabetes, prior stroke, or polycystic kidney disease.