ISLAMABAD: Lowering blood pressure far below the current guidelines significantly reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes for people aged over 50, a major US government health survey has concluded.
The breakthrough was hailed as "potentially lifesaving information" that reduced the risk of death to patients in the survey by nearly a quater.
Aggressively reducing blood pressure to below 120 - far below the 140 recommended for over 50s or 150 for over 60s - cut the risk of heart attacks and strokes by nearly a third.
"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," said Gary H. Gibbons, director of the US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the primary sponsor of the six-year study that is the largest ever of its kind.
The study had been due to run until 2017, but because the conclusions were categorically reached, the decision was taken to release the results early as it was deemed that lives could be saved with the new information.
Around a third of people in Britain have high blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart attack, heart failure, kidney disease, stroke or dementia.
“This study will shake things up,” Dr J Michael Gaziano, a Harvard University professor of medicine told the New York Times.
It was predicted that the US study would have a similar effect on behaviour and attitudes as the discovery, almost 40 years ago, that lower cholesterol was good for the heart.
Until now, the optimal blood pressure for over-50s has been unclear. The consensus was the lower the better, but there were also concerns that higher blood pressure was needed for the elderly to make sure of effective circulation to the brain and around the body.
The six-year survey of 9,300 people acroos the US aged over 50 concluded that maintaining 120 mm Hg by intensive blood pressure intervention could save the lives of those who have a combination of high blood pressure and at least one additional risk factor for heart disease.
“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.
“But patients should talk to their doctor to determine whether this lower goal is best for their individual care.”