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(Video) Blood Pressure Guidelines Should be Lowered, Study Shows

Lowering your systolic blood pressure to 120 can reduce your risk of death by 25 percent, according to results of a clinical trial funded by the National Institutes of Health, called SPRINT. The study ended two years earlier than expected, because results were so conclusive.

“What level of blood pressure you want to treat has always been an enigma to every physician,” Gaurang Gandhi MD, of the TriHealth Heart Institute, points out.

Current blood pressure guidelines recommend a systolic blood pressure of 140 and 150 for those 60 and older.

What the Sprint Study Tells Us

The study featured more than 9,300 men and women over the age of 50, who were split into two groups. One group was prescribed two drugs to reach a blood pressure below 140 and the other group was prescribed three drugs to reach a blood pressure below 120.

The group that reached the 120 goal saw significant changes:

  • Their risk of heart attacks and stroke reduced by nearly a third.
  • Their risk of death reduced by nearly 25 percent.

Side Effects of Blood Pressure Medication Need to be Considered

It’s important, however, to recognize the potential downfalls of using multiple medications to lower blood pressure, particularly in the elderly population, Dr. Ghandi says. Older adults are more prone to negative side effects because many already take many medications for chronic conditions. “If their blood pressure goes below 120, they could start seeing symptoms like dizziness – they could pass out and fall down and break a bone. For example, if everyone I’m treating is older than 80, I might not implement he guidelines because of the side effects of these medications.”

In younger patients, he says he’d consider race, ethnicity, gender and other co-morbidities to make individualized recommendations.

Regardless, Dr. Gandhi says there are a few things you can start doing now to lower your systolic blood pressure to a healthy level, including:

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Last Updated: September 11, 2015