Small Increases in Blood Pressure Raise Heart Death Risk
WebMD News Archive
MacMahon notes that small changes in blood pressure across an entire
population -- such as those that could be achieved by reducing salt or calorie
intake -- would save a very large number of lives.
Laurence Sperling, MD, FACC, FACP, director of preventive cardiology at
Emory University Medical Center in Atlanta, agrees. "To me, it's not a
surprise that a small difference in blood pressure can make a big difference in
risk of cardiovascular disease," Sperling tells WebMD in an interview to
provide objective comment. "A lot of people have felt, 'If my blood
pressure is not super-high, I'm not at risk of stroke today.' But we know there
is a cumulative effect of walking around with high blood pressure for a long
time. We should work toward optimal blood pressure. Optimizing blood pressure
is a difficult thing to achieve. It takes a lot of hard work and diligence on
the part of both physician and patient. It is something everyone has to work at
To lower one's blood pressure, Sperling advises appropriate medical
treatment, sodium restriction, weight loss, exercise, and minimal alcohol
MacMahon stresses the need to recognize that blood-pressure-related disease
affects many more people than previously thought. "Lifestyle changes should
be considered across the board for individuals at risk," he says. In regard
to medications, he states that most blood pressure-lowering drugs are still
limited to those with diagnosed hypertension. More clinical trials are needed
to investigate the use of blood-pressure lowering drugs on others at risk for
Such studies should begin as soon as possible, MacMahon argues. He notes
that single-drug treatment with most available agents lowers blood pressure by
only 5-10%. Although drug combinations or new drugs can increase this action by
about half, new drugs urgently are needed.
"There is the potential to avoid millions of unnecessary deaths, heart
attacks, and strokes each year by the development of more effective treatments
for blood-pressure reduction," he says.
- Small increases in blood pressure raise the risk of death from coronary
heart disease, even in those who are not diagnosed with high blood
- To lower blood pressure, experts advise medical treatment, sodium
restriction, weight loss, and limited alcohol consumption.
- Blood pressure medications are currently approved only for those who have
diagnosed high blood pressure, but further study is needed for others who are
at risk for blood pressure-related diseases.