Study: Intensive Blood Pressure Treatment Could Save Lives

FEBRUARY 15, 2017
Jennifer Barrett, Assistant Editor

About 610,000 Americans die of heart disease every year. The landmark Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT) determined that decreasing blood pressure to less than 120 mmHg compared to 140 mmHg reduced heart attack, stroke, and death. Recently-published data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey confirms the life-saving benefits of SPRINT-based intensive treatment for US adults.1
Researchers from the University of Utah used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examiniation Survey from 1999 to 2006 conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics to focus on about 2000 individuals who met SPRINT eligibility criteria. The researchers used that data to project that SPRINT-based intensive treatment for at-risk patients could potentially save 107,500 lives each year.
“The public health impact of adopting intensive treatment in the right patients is enormous,” Adam Bress, University of Utah assistant professor of population health sciences, said in a news release.2
SPRINT concluded that patients should work to achieve blood pressure lower than 120 mm Hg compared to the previously accepted level of 140 mm Hg. The trial found that implementing the intensive blood pressure regimen could result in a 27% reduction in mortality. To achieve blood pressure of 120 mm Hg or less, patients would likely have to take several medications and visit their health care providers more frequently.
“The lifetime risk of high blood pressure in the US is about 80%,” Richard Cooper, senior study author, professor and chairman of Public Health Sciences at Loyola University Medical School, said in a news release. “Optimal management is one of the most significant contributions of medical care to patient survival.”
Some experts acknowledge concerns about the implications of reducing blood pressure too much. Cooper added that he believes systolic blood pressure of at least 130 mm Hg would suffice, and that additional blood pressure medications may increase risk for certain low blood pressure, fainting, and acute kidney injury. The authors conclude that weighing the benefits with the risks when choosing intensive treatment is important.
The researchers urged further research that focuses on patients who would benefit most from SPRINT-based treatment and how best to implement the protocol.
  1. Bress AP, Kramer H, Katib AP, et al. Potential deaths averted and serious adverse events incurred from adoption of the SPRINT intensive blood pressure regimen in the US: Projections from NHANES. Circulation. 2017; doi.CIRCULATIONAHA.116.025322. 
  2. Intensive blood pressure control could prevent 100,000 deaths each year [news release]. University of Utah’s website. Accessed Feb. 14, 2017. 


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