Blood Pressure? 120 May Be a Good Target

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Lowering blood pressure to 120 — instead of the current guideline of 140, or even higher for older people — could prevent more than 100,000 deaths a year in the United States alone, researchers report.

The projections are based on earlier findings from the Sprint study, an analysis of more than 9,300 people age 50 and older that found that intensive blood pressure treatment could be lifesaving for adults at high risk for cardiovascular disease.

For this new analysis, in Circulation, scientists used data on a broad sampling of 2,185 men and women 50 or older at high risk for heart disease. They followed them from 1999 through 2011, tracking their blood pressure and their use of antihypertensive medicines.

The researchers calculated that nationwide implementation of such treatment could result in 107,500 fewer deaths annually. But driving blood pressure that low might require using three or even four blood pressure drugs, resulting in more side effects, some potentially serious, including fainting from low blood pressure, electrolyte imbalances and kidney injury.

The lead author, Adam Bress, of the University of Utah, said that intensive treatment could still be worth the trade-off. “I think it’s worth a conversation, and then a try if you’re willing,” he said. “But it may not be right for everyone.”

To find out more about the best home blood pressure monitors, check out the advice at The Sweethome, a product recommendation site owned by the New York Times.