The National Institutes of Health (NIH) have sponsored a new study showing that treating high blood pressure more aggressively than usual significantly cuts the risk of both heart disease and death in people over the age of 50.
An estimated one-third of adults in the United States have high blood pressure, CBS reports. Half do not have the condition under control. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to many health problems, such as increasing the risk for kidney failure or heart attack.
Scientists define normal blood pressure as a measurement below 120 over 80. However, once a person’s readings pass 140 over 90, they are considered to have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension.
While a blood pressure of 120 over 80 is seen as the goal, 140 over 90 is the most commonly used target for doctors. There has never been a real consensus as to why this is, which is what prompted the research.
For the study, researchers analyzed 9,300 patients with diagnosed hypertension. They gave the subjects a mix of different medicines to reduce systolic pressure to a target of 120 instead of the commonly used 140. This change was shown to be very beneficial–cutting the rate of heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure by almost a third.
In addition, the reduction in blood pressure also cut the risk of death by 25 percent. People with diabetes or those who had a previous stroke were not used for the trial.
“More intensive management of high blood pressure in people 50 years and older can save lives and reduce cardiovascular complications such as heart attacks,” stated Dr. Gary Gibbons, director of the NIH’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
Because a full analysis of the end results has not yet been completed, the researchers say that medical groups still need to look at the data closely before making any changes to practice. There also is no way of knowing how many people need this more aggressive style of treatment. However, the study was stopped early because the benefits that came with the new treatment became so obvious.