A large study of blood pressure treatment was stopped early (in September) because the results were considered so promising. Now, the data have been published in The New England Journal of Medicine.
The study was called SPRINT, which stands for Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial. 9,361 people with hypertension were recruited to participate.
Half were randomly assigned to get their systolic blood pressure below 120. The other half were treated to get systolic blood pressure under 140.
The Results of the SPRINT Trial:
Those in the intensive treatment group were 25 percent less likely to experience a heart attack or other cardiovascular event. In absolute terms, 1.65 percent of those in the intensive treatment group suffered such an outcome compared to 2.19 percent in the standard treatment group.
Side Effects Found in the SPRINT Study:
Intensive treatment resulted in more side effects such as low blood pressure, fainting, kidney problems or electrolyte imbalance. While the SPRINT investigators were justifiably proud of the benefits of intensive blood pressure control, they point out that 172 people needed to get their systolic blood pressure under 120 to prevent one death from cardiovascular causes in three years.
Is This Blood Pressure Target for You?
The participants in this study were selected very carefully, and unless you meet the same criteria you might not get the same benefit. (As you will note above, the benefit is modest even though it is significant.)
All the volunteers were at least 50 years old, and had systolic blood pressure at the start of the study between 130 and 180. In addition to their blood pressure, they had an increased risk of cardiovascular catastrophe, due to kidney disease, existing heart disease (not stroke), age over 75 years, or a 10 year risk of at least 15% on the Framingham risk score, which takes cholesterol levels and smoking into account. People with diabetes were not allowed to participate.
Before starting on a new, more stringent blood pressure medicine regimen, discuss this study with your doctor and make sure the small benefit that intensive treatment offers is truly appropriate in your individual case.