For years, medical experts have been unsure of what the ideal goal is for treating high blood pressure patients: should doctors be aggressive or mild in treating high blood pressure?

Recent findings say that aggressive high blood pressure treatments lessen the risk of fatality by 25 percent. They could also lessen the rate of cardiovascular disease and lower the rate of death related to high blood pressure in adults 50 years old and older.

Dropping blood pressure to below 120 milligrams of mercury (mm Hg) reduces risks of acute coronary conditions, heart failure, heart attack and stroke by 30 percent more than dropping blood pressure to just 140 mm Hg. Also, fatality was lowered by 25 percent in patients who reached the level of 120 mm Hg.

This clinical trial was conducted by the National Institutes of Health and is called the Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT). These studies provide potentially life-saving information that can help millions of Americans.

However, doctors do not yet recommend this practice to their patients since these results have not yet been published and are in the preliminary stage as of now.

The American Heart Association (AHA) maintains 140 mm Hg is ideal for patients even with these recent findings.

According to AHA president Mark A. Creager, M.D., the association has previously raised a serious concern that if doctors put into practice a higher target, the decline in heart disease rates, which have been seen for decades now, might be reversed. He added that the results of the recent study actually confirmed that a lower blood pressure target for patients is better.

However, the AHA and American College of Cardiology will likely consider the results of this study when deciding whether to revise the guidelines or not.

The results could lead millions more people to take medications, said cardiologist Cam Patterson, chief operating officer at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Changing the standards from 140 mm Hg to 120 mm Hg could increase the number of people who might need to take high blood pressure medications.

Decreasing the number of fatalities related to high blood pressure may entail increasing the intake of medication in certain cases, but it is still safer to consult a doctor before jumping into this life-changing practice.

Photo: Yuya Tamai | Flickr

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