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Cardiovascular Health Channel
Reported December 13, 2011

Blood Pressure Meds = Less Risk of Stroke?

(Ivanhoe Newswire) – Prehypertension affects more than 50 million people in the U.S. It’s blood pressure between 120/80 mm Hg and 139/89 mm Hg, and puts people at an increased risk of stroke. However, a new study shows medications that lower blood pressure significantly reduced the risk of stroke in these people.

"Our study pertains to people with pre-hypertensive blood pressure levels and shows that the excess risk of stroke associated with these high-normal readings (top number 120-140) can be altered by taking blood pressure pills," Ilke Sipahi, M.D., lead author of the study and associate director of Heart Failure and Transplantation at the Harrington-McLaughlin Heart and Vascular Institute in Cleveland, Ohio, was quoted as saying. .

In a meta-analysis of 16 studies, researchers examined data that compared anti-hypertensive drugs against placebo in 70,664 people with average baseline blood pressure levels within the pre-hypertensive range. The researchers found that patients taking blood pressure-lowering medicines had a 22 percent lower risk of stroke compared to those taking a placebo. This effect was observed across all classes of anti-hypertensive drugs studied. No significant reduction in the risk of heart attack occurred, but there was a trend toward lower cardiovascular death in patients taking blood pressure medications compared to those on placebo. To prevent one stroke in the study population, 169 people had to be treated with a blood pressure-lowering medication for an average 4.3 years.

American Heart Association treatment guidelines call for lifestyle changes, not medications, to reduce blood pressure in people with prehypertension. Those lifestyle changes include weight loss, physical activity, a diet rich in fruit and vegetables and low in salt and fat, and keeping alcohol consumption moderate (no more than two drinks per day for men and no more than one drink per day for women).
"We do not think that giving blood pressure medicine instead of implementing the lifestyle changes is the way to go," Sipahi explained. "However, the clear-cut reduction in the risk of stroke with blood pressure pills is important and may be complementary to lifestyle changes."

The cost of long-term therapy and the risks associated with blood pressure medicines need to be discussed extensively within the medical community before undertaking guideline changes, Sipahi said.

SOURCE: Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, December 2011.


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