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Study: Aggressive Blood Pressure Management Could Save Lives

A new large-scale study suggests more aggressive treatment for high blood pressure could save lives. Credit: Imelenchon/Morguefile.com
A new large-scale study suggests more aggressive treatment for high blood pressure could save lives. Credit: Imelenchon/Morguefile.com
November 12, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. - For people 50 and older, the results of a new blood pressure study could be life changing and possibly life saving. According to the Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial, or SPRINT, a more aggressive approach to managing high blood pressure was shown to lower the risk of death by almost a quarter.

Dr. Joshua Wynne is dean of the University of North Dakota's School of Medicine and Health Sciences. He's also a cardiologist, and says researchers looked at more than 9,000 people separated into two groups.

"The group that had the lower blood pressure did better," says Wynne. "They had fewer heart attacks, fewer evidence of heart failure and fewer deaths, and it was to a significant amount."

Some of the results of the SPRINT study were released this week in the first of several planned research papers by the New England Journal of Medicine. Most significantly, the study found that lowering systolic blood pressure to a rate of 120, instead of the standard 140, left patients in better shape overall.

But, Wynne is taking a cautiously optimistic approach to the findings. He says there are trade offs to aggressively lowering a patient's blood pressure and individuals need to talk with their personal physician to explore their options.

"First of all, it costs more, and you have to take more medicines," says Wynne. "You have to be followed up to make sure that there aren't any serious complications or problems from the medication."

With North Dakota having a higher rate of overweight or obese people than the much of the country, Wynne says they are at higher risk of developing hypertension and he thinks the state's older population should pay extra attention to the SPRINT trial.

"Our North Dakotans, particularly those 50 and over in age, are likely to reap even more benefits from this trial if they and their provider decide that they should be in the more aggressive group," says Wynne.

The hypertension study, however, did not test younger people under 50, or those with diabetes.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - ND