September 17th, 2015

Possible new blood pressure guideliness in the near-ish future

Gina Kolata at the NYT reports on the latest study in her usual measured-excitement style:

(That's in no way a slam at Kolata. It's a compliment. I really like her reporting, and I love that she can get really into a subject without losing track of details and tight rhetoric).

NIH funded a study called Sprint, to see if lower blood pressure goals for people whose blood pressure was high and being medicated might make a difference on outcomes such as cardiovascular events, stroke, etc.

The new "low" goal was to try to treat down to 120, and see how that compared to more typical goals (like 140 or 150) for systolic blood pressure. The study has been rather abruptly halted, because the positive benefits of treating to a lower number were substantial and showed up quickly.

Here is the SPRINT press release.

On the one hand, I'm sort of an anti-diagnose-by-numbers person, and I wish people would take more of a diet and exercise approach to health numbers, rather that immediately and only resorting to pills. On the other hand, I'm a real pro-evidence/data person and this looks like good data. These are not as incompatible as they might seem at first glance.

Certainly, if you are taking blood pressure meds anyway, you've already bought into the diagnose by numbers, and hopefully you are taking the meds in conjunction with working on lifestyle changes that supplement the beneficial effects of the meds (and in some cases might make you not need them any more). Under those circumstances, this data could really make a difference in your decision making. Show this [NOT MY POST, ha ha funny, the NIH press release of course!] to your health care provider the next time you go in for a checkup and have that conversation!