As research in cardiovascular health evolves, experts have carved out a new category for patients who have a blood pressure reading that falls into the gray area between normal and hypertensive. Hypertension experts have deemed these people prehypertensive (120-139 mm Hg/80-89 mm Hg), and a new study published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association has found that reducing blood pressure readings among this cohort actually resulted in a significant reduction in their risk of stroke.
The meta-analysis, led by researchers from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, included 16 trials totaling over 70,000 patients. The trials compared prehypertensive people who were taking any of the many available antihypertension drugs to similar patients taking no medications. The results demonstrated that, among the patients in the treatment group, the risk of stroke was 22 percent lower than in the control group.
It s only been about five years since the sub-category of prehypertension was singled out for special attention, says ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross. Over the course of my medical practice, such readings were ignored. Now, though, large-scale studies have found that blood pressure does not suddenly increase the risk of cardiovascular disease right at a reading of 140 over 90 mm Hg; instead, risk rises gradually around a systolic blood pressure of 120 mm Hg or so. He observes that the benefits of treating mild hypertension or prehypertension are becoming better known: Preventing stroke and heart attack with blood pressure medications has been a major advance for public health.