High-Risk Patients Should Aim for Tighter Blood Pressure Control

If you have high blood pressure, your doctor will work with you on a plan to control it. Typically this means using medication and lifestyle changes to bring your numbers below 140/90 mmHg.

Blood pressureIn some cases, though, doctors advise targeting even lower readings. Recent research suggests this approach pays off for people with diabetes, heart disease, or kidney disease.

In 19 studies with nearly 45,000 participants, tighter control cut blood pressure to an average of 135/76 mmHg. As a result, these high-risk patients reduced their risk for:

  • Heart attack by 13 percent
  • Stroke by 22 percent
  • Kidney disease by 10 percent
  • Worsening retinopathy—or eye disease—by 19 percent

Few Risks, Big Upside
The tighter targets did come with some risks. For instance, about two and a half times as many patients who aimed for tighter control developed severely low blood pressure, compared with those who got the standard treatment for high blood pressure.

Severely low blood pressure can lead to dizziness, fainting, and nausea. But there’s little evidence this risk outweighs the benefits of better blood pressure control, the study authors note.

Get a Handle on Your Risk
To understand how blood pressure numbers affect your health, use the American Heart Association’s High Blood Pressure Health Risk Calculator. Enter in your numbers. You’ll learn your odds for serious health problems, such as heart attack and stroke.

If your readings rank as high, talk with your doctor about your treatment strategy. He or she can help you set an appropriate target—and support you in reaching it.

Your Heart, in Good Hands
At WCHN, we take pride in offering outstanding cardiovascular care to our patients. Learn more: