Blood pressure – when to treat and how low should you go?
New studies suggest that people at risk of heart attacks should aim for lower blood pressure readings than previously thought.
Research fellow Dr Emily Atkins and Professor Vlado Perkovic from the George Institute for Global Health in Sydney review the latest recommendations for blood pressure management in the August edition of Australian Prescriber.
“There have been a number of recent studies looking at the link between blood pressure and ‘cardiac events’, which are incidents like heart attacks that may cause damage to the heart muscle,” says Dr Atkins.
“The most recent large clinical trial with people at risk of heart problems was stopped early when it was clear that people with the greatest lowering of blood pressure fared best,” she says.
“Guidelines recommend at what blood pressure you should start taking blood pressure lowering medicines. If you are at risk of heart problems, depending on your precise situation, you may need to start taking medicines at a lower blood pressure and aim for a lower target pressure.”
However, there are also risks involved when people start treatment at lower blood pressures.
“This may result in blood pressures being lowered too far, which can lead to fainting and falls,” says Dr Atkins.
“As always, when starting medicines for blood pressure, it is important for you and your doctor to weigh up the substantial benefits with the risk of side effects.”