NIH: Study finds close management of blood pressure reduces cardiac disease, deaths

The National Institutes of Health called an early halt for an enormous, 9,300+ person trial examining the role of blood pressure intervention due to significant preliminary results. The U.S. agency found that maintaining systolic blood pressure at a lower level than current recommendations reduces rates of heart disease and the risk of death.

This news comes as at-home, connected blood pressure monitoring options are proliferating and as the monitoring devices become more often automatically integrated with electronic medical records in the hospital and clinical settings.

The study, which is the largest of its kind, found that maintaining a systolic pressure of 120 mm Hg could improve outcomes for adults 50 and older who also have high blood pressure and one other risk factor for heart disease. The trial, named SPRINT, started in the fall of 2009 at about 100 medical centers and practices in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. One in three people in the U.S. have high blood pressure.

It found that a target systolic pressure of 120 mm Hg lowered cardiovascular event rates--such as heart attack, heart failure and stroke--by almost one-third while the risk of death was reduced by almost one-quarter; this is compared to a target systolic pressure of 140 mm Hg. The higher figure is the current lower boundary for systolic pressure that's considered treatable. Patients in the study received an average of two blood pressure medications.

Up next, the study will examine kidney disease, cognitive function and dementia among the trial participants. Those data are still under analysis with additional information slated to be collected over the next year. Primary results of the trial will be published in the next few months.

"This study provides potentially lifesaving information that will be useful to health care providers as they consider the best treatment options for some of their patients, particularly those over the age of 50," Dr. Gary Gibbons, director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the primary sponsor of SPRINT, said in a statement. We "look forward to quickly communicating the results to help inform patient care and the future development of evidence-based clinical guidelines."

- here is the announcement

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