BETHESDA, Md., Sept. 11 (UPI) -- The National Institutes of Health halted a study into more aggressive treatment of high blood pressure, or hypertension, after it was found that proposed guides for treatment were significantly effective at reducing health risks tied to the condition.
The treatment lowers the aim of high blood pressure treatments from a systolic blood pressure goal of 140 mm Hg to a goal of 120 mm Hg, which the study showed lowered the risk for cardiovascular events by one-third and risk of death by nearly a quarter. Most medical guidelines currently suggest aiming for 140mm Hg.
"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," said Dr. Lawrence Fine, chief of the Clinical Applications and Prevention Branch of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, in a press release.
Since 2009, researchers in the Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial, or SPRINT, the combined efforts of four branches of NIH, have been working with a diverse study population of 9,300 adults 50 years or older, with high blood pressure and at least one other risk factor for heart disease, such as smoking or high cholesterol.
The goal was to judge whether more aggressively attacking blood pressure to sustain a 120 mm Hg goal would improve health outcomes. Currently, the recommended goals for hypertension patients are 140 mm Hg for otherwise healthy people and 130 mm Hg for those with kidney disease or diabetes.
Researchers randomly split participants into two groups to test treatments. One group was aimed at the standard systolic pressure goal of 140 mm Hg, receiving an average of 2 blood pressure medications, while the other group was aiming for 120 mm Hg and received an average of 3 blood pressure medications during the study.
The study was expected to end in 2016, however researchers said the reduction of cardiovascular events such as heart attack, stroke and heart failure by 30 percent and the reduced overall risk of death by 25 percent were so significant the findings should be released to the public now.
"This is a very big deal," says Dr. Mark Creager, president of the American Heart Association and director of the Heart Vascular Center at the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, told the New York Times. "I believe that this study will serve as a roadmap towards saving a significant number of lives."