Study: Medications do lower blood pressure
Web posted at: 6:25 p.m. EDT (2225 GMT)
(WebMD) -- The rate of high blood pressure (hypertension) and its complications has declined considerably in the United States in recent decades as a result of antihypertensive medications, according to a study published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Doctors associated with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's long-running Framingham Heart Study found that the introduction and increasing use of high blood pressure medications between 1950 and 1989 reduced prevalence of high blood pressure by half among men and by 70 percent among women in the study group.
Since 1948, the Framingham Heart Study has monitored the cardiovascular health of more than 10,000 participants. Its results can generally be extrapolated to the population as a whole. As the study tracked the increasing use of antihypertensive medications over nearly 40 years, the study's doctors noticed improvement in their group's overall blood pressure levels. Especially noticeable was the sharp decline of higher levels of blood pressure.
The study indicates that the use of high blood pressure medications has probably contributed to the decline of deaths from heart disease since the late 1960s.
The four-decade study doesn't prove outright that medication caused those declines. But other research has shown a similar pattern of hypertension drugs lowering blood pressure and preventing, and even reversing, enlargement of the left ventricle, which pumps oxygen-rich blood into the body.
As the heart works harder in pumping blood, it builds more muscle on its left ventricle, the main pumping chamber. This additional, "hypertrophied" muscle mass does augment the heart's pumping effect, but it also greatly increases the risk for abnormal heart rhythms, heart attack and sudden cardiac death.
"We've done an astronomically good job controlling the very high extremes of blood pressure," all but eradicating them in this country, said Dr. Daniel Levy, director of the Framingham study.
However, he said there's been limited progress cutting blood pressure among the much larger group of people with mild to moderate hypertension.
Other recent studies have shown that although more than 40 million Americans have hypertension, only about half are taking any medication for it, and only about one-quarter have their blood pressure under control.
High Blood Pressure
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