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Treating At-Risk People with Normal Blood Pressure can Save Lives, Study Finds

Update Date: Dec 24, 2015 09:35 AM EST

People who are considered to be at-risk of heart attack and stroke should get blood pressure treatment even if their levels are normal, a new study is reporting.

For this study, the researchers conducted an analysis on 123 medical trials that recruited more than 600,000 participants over the time span of 20 years.

The team found that if doctors lowered their recommended blood pressure levels, the number of people diagnosed with cardiovascular disease would decrease.

Study lead author Kazem Rahimi at the University of Oxford added that this new low could "potentially save millions of lives."

Normal blood pressure is defined as any measurement that is less than 120/80 mmHg (millimeters of mercury), according to the American Heart Association. The number on top is known as "systolic" pressure and the number on the bottom is called the "diastolic" pressure." Blood pressure becomes high when it hits above 140/90.

In this study, the team concluded that for every 10 mmHg decline in systolic blood pressure, risk of heart attack fell by one-fifth while risks of stroke and heart failure fell by a quarter. Every 10 mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure was also tied to a 13 percent lower risk of death.

"Importantly, these reductions in disease were similar across a wide range of high risk patients... irrespective of whether their blood pressure was already low [less than 130 mmHg] to begin with," the researchers wrote reported by Medical Xpress. "Our results provide strong support for lowering blood pressure to systolic blood pressures less than 130 mmHg."

Experts who were not involved with the study commented that treating normal blood pressure would really only apply to people who are at-risk.

"If you are already at a low risk, reducing this by 20 percent isn't all that important, and probably isn't either cost-effective or desirable," Tom Chico, a cardiologist at the University of Sheffield, said via the Science Media Center. "However, if you are at high risk (such as if you already have cardiovascular disease, diabetes or smoke) then a 20 percent reduction in risk makes a big difference and saves a lot of lives."

Risk factors for cardiovascular disease include having a history of heart or artery disease, heart failure, stroke and diabetes.

The study's findings were published in the journal, Hypertension.

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