NEW YORK, NY / The New York Times / Health / March 8, 2011
Regimens: Drugs’ Benefits Go Beyond Blood Pressure
By Roni Caryn Rabin
A new analysis suggests that blood pressure drugs may benefit heart disease patients even if they don’t have high blood pressure.
Health Guide: Blood Pressure
The paper, published in the March 2 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association, is an analysis of 25 published studies, and the authors cautioned that randomized controlled trials must be done to confirm the results. (They reported no financial ties to drug makers.)
Patients in the studies were followed for two years on average, and many had blood pressure levels that were normal or slightly above. Compared with similar patients who took dummy pills, those who took so-called antihypertensive medication cut their risk of stroke by 23 percent; heart attack by 20 percent; congestive heart failure by 29 percent; and death by 13 percent.
(Photo by Guillermo Cabrera-Rojo)
The study’s lead author, Angela M. Thompson, said that while current guidelines call for treatment when blood pressure is 140/90 or higher, “we know from other studies that there’s a graded relationship between cardiovascular disease risk and blood pressure” — starting when the first number, the systolic reading, is as low as 115.
But Ms. Thompson, a doctoral student in epidemiology at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, noted that these cutoff points had changed over time. “So the question is: Is this still the best cutoff point? Or if you lower it a little bit, are people going to obtain more benefit?”
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