38 | Summer 2016
any people have high blood pressure (HBP) for
years without knowing it. Generally, there are no
symptoms, but when HBP goes untreated, it
damages arteries and vital organs throughout your body.
That’s why it is often called the “silent killer.”
People often make the mistake of assuming symptoms
will alert them to their high blood pressure. However, HBP
can only be diagnosed by using a device to measure your
blood pressure. Not that long ago, this meant going to your
doctor or a clinic and having a reading taken by a nurse
or other healthcare professional. But today there are
accurate BP monitors at your local pharmacy and
there are monitors you can buy to measure your
blood pressure at home.
Choosing a Monitor
The American Heart Association recommends an
automatic, cuff-style, bicep (upper-arm) monitor. Ask
your healthcare professional for advice in selecting
and using one at home. Wrist and finger monitors are not
recommended because they yield less reliable readings.
he AHA guidelines currently recommend a systolic
pressure of less than 140 millimeters of mercury for
most adults with high blood pressure. But doctors
say new findings presented at the American Heart Association
Scientific Sessions 2015 support a steeper goal of 120 — a
reduction that could translate into doctors putting millions more
Americans with high blood pressure on additional medication.
The study found that hitting the lower 120 target reduced
the risk of dying from cardiovascular causes by 43 percent.
The Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial, or SPRINT,
included more than 9,300 people with high blood pressure
who were age 50 and older and had at least one other risk
factor for heart disease and stroke. The patients were followed
for a median of more than three years, much shorter than
expected because investigators stopped the trial early after
seeing the striking results.
Using medications to lower systolic blood pressure to
around 120 reduced the risk of having or dying from a heart
attack, stroke or heart failure by a quarter, compared with
lowering it to the previously recommended target of less than
140. During the study, 243 patients in the intensive treatment
group had a so-called event versus 319 patients in the
standard treatment group.
When investigators looked only at deaths caused by heart
disease and stroke, the nation’s No. 1 and No. 5 killers, the
risk of dying fell by 43 percent in the more aggressively treated
group, with 37 deaths in the intensive therapy group and 65
deaths in the standard therapy group.
Blood pressure medications are relatively affordable —
nearly all are available as low-cost generics — meaning that
more doses won’t burden patients with higher bills. Nor did
researchers find that giving patients more drugs increases the
risk of most serious side effects.
“This is likely the most important blood pressure study in the
More aggressive treatment of high
past 40 years,” said Daniel Jones, M.D., interim chairman of the
department of medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical
Center, who was not involved in the study. “It’s one that should
and will change the practice of treating high blood pressure
around the world.”
High blood pressure contributed to more than 405,000
U.S. deaths in 2013. Globally, the World Health Organization
estimates it causes 7.5 million deaths.
blood pressure saves lives in study
Tips for Choosing
a Blood Pressure