Borderline Hypertension, Elevated Stroke Risk

Stroke risk lowered in pre hypertensive patients with blood pressure meds

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Borderline high blood pressure puts individuals at an elevated stroke risk even though patients don't formally have hypertension. Common blood pressure drugs may significantly reduce that risk.

Pre-hypertension is blood pressure between 120/80 mm Hg and 139/89 mm Hg, while hypertension is 140/90 mm Hg or higher. More than 50 million Americans are currently affected by pre-hypertension.

"Exercise and stock up on fruits and vegetables to keep your heart healthy."

Dr. Ilke Sipahi, lead author of the study and associate director of heart failure and transplantation at the Harrington-McLaughlin Heart and Vascular Institute, said his recent research revealed that simply taking blood pressure pills can reduce the excessive stroke risk linked to pre-hypertension.

During the review study researchers examined 16 studies comparing anti-hypertensive drugs against placebo in 70,664 patients with pre-hypertension.

They found that taking blood pressure medications can lower the stroke risk in pre-hypertensive patients by 22 percent as compared to taking a placebo. The same effect was seen across all studied hypertension medications. Researchers revealed that in order to prevent one stroke among the study population, 169 patients had to be treated with blood pressure drugs for 4.3 years.

Investigators also found a trend suggesting fewer heart-related deaths among patients taking the hypertension medications, though no reduction in heart attack risk was discovered.

American Heart Association guidelines do not suggest drugs for pre-hypertension. Instead lifestyle changes are suggested, such as weight loss, exercise, low alcohol consumption and a healthy low-sodium diet.

Dr. Sipahi does not suggest that the drugs be substituted for lifestyle changes. But he noted the reduced stroke risk is important and could be complementary in addition to other lifestyle modifications.

He said the risks of giving pre-hypertensive patients blood pressure drugs would need to be discussed among medical professionals before any guideline changes are made.

The study was recently published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

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Review Date: 
December 8, 2011
Last Updated:
December 8, 2011