The media blitz over the "new" blood pressure control study (SPRINT) is grossly misleading.
The NIH-sponsored study only included patients at high-risk for cardiovascular disease and did not include any diabetics or patients with a previous stroke. Many patients starting the study were not controlled to previous guidelines; most patients were on 2 anti-hypertensive medications already. Patients were required to see their physician each month for medication adjustment and testing to maintain safe but effective levels - something no reasonable patient does.
With that background, patients with tightly controlled blood pressure reduced risk of death by 1.2% over 3 years - meaning 83 patients would have to see their physician monthly over 3 years for 1 patient not to die. Further, the risk of kidney failure in these patients was 1.6% higher and the number of ER visits increased by up to 5%. Interestingly, the number falls requiring medical treatment did not increase in these patients as blood pressure was lowered - which is not the case in patients at normal risk for heart disease and is contraindicated by geriatric studies in established medical literature.
In contrast, most patients in the study were obese, many smoked and many had uncontrolled cholesterol levels. Stopping any of these three behavior choices reduces risk of cardiovascular outcomes, including death, by 30 - 60% -- with no side-effects.
SPRINT tells us nothing new - it merely confirms what Alpena physicians have been doing for years - saving lives by reducing blood pressure in persons at highest risk for cardiovascular disease. Don't take extra pills or self-medicate based upon media hype - ask your physician to help weigh the risks and benefits.