High blood pressure, also referred to as hypertension, is defined in adults as blood pressure higher than 140/90 mm Hg. The condition is a leading cause of disability and mortality in the United States and worldwide, increasing the risk of stroke, heart attack, kidney failure and other medical conditions. It is estimated that 1 in 3 individuals in the United States is hypertensive.
It has been reported that individuals with high blood pressure who are able to maintain their systolic pressure (blood pressure when the heart contracts) in the normal range, meaning below 140 mm Hg, can live longer lives and are less likely to suffer a stroke, heart attack or heart failure.
Now, the Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT) funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), revealed that the use of medicines (with careful adjustments) to decrease systolic blood pressure to levels around 120 mm Hg, rather than below the currently recommended 140 mm Hg for healthy adults (130 mm Hg for adults with kidney disease or diabetes), led to even better clinical outcomes in patients with high blood pressure.
The trial enrolled more than 9,300 individuals aged 50 and older, with high blood pressure, and at increased risk for heart disease or who have kidney disease. Researchers found that a reduction in systolic blood pressure to around 120 mm Hg decreased the rate of cardiovascular events like heart attack, heart failure and stroke by almost a third, and by almost 25% the mortality rate associated with the condition. Given the results and the substantial lifesaving benefits this research may offer high blood pressure patients, the NIH chose to end the trial more than a year earlier and publicize the findings.
“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,” explained the director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), the primary sponsor of SPRINT, Dr. Gary H. Gibbons in a press release. “We are delighted to have achieved this important milestone in the study in advance of the expected closure date for the SPRINT trial and look forward to quickly communicating the results to help inform patient care and the future development of evidence-based clinical guidelines.”
The team concluded that a more intensive blood pressure intervention aiming at a systolic pressure of 120 mm Hg can ultimately save lives and reduce health complications in older patients with hypertension.
“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,” concluded the Chief of Clinical Applications and Prevention Branch at NHLBI, Dr. Lawrence Fine. “But patients should talk to their doctor to determine whether this lower goal is best for their individual care.”
NIH expects to publish the primary results of the SPRINT trial within the next few months.