Brits ‘could slash risk of heart attacks and strokes by taking pills that lower blood pressure’

MORE Brits could slash their risk of heart attack and stroke by taking pills that lower blood pressure, a major review suggests.

University of Oxford researchers found the drugs even benefit people whose blood pressure is within the “normal” range.

University of Oxford researchers found blood pressure drugs can benefit people whose blood pressure is within the 'normal' range

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University of Oxford researchers found blood pressure drugs can benefit people whose blood pressure is within the ‘normal’ rangeCredit: Getty Images – Getty

They analysed data on 348,854 patients from 48 trials, including those with and without a history of heart disease.

Over an average four years of follow-up, each 5mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure lowered the risk of stroke by 13 per cent.

The risk of ischaemic heart disease was lowered by 7 per cent, heart failure by 14 per cent and dying from cardiovascular disease by 5 per cent.

Patients benefited from reducing their blood pressure regardless of their reading at the start of the trial and their history of heart disease.

Systolic blood pressure is the first number in a reading and indicates the pressure against the artery walls when the heart beats.

Someone is said to have high blood pressure – or hypertension – when their reading is above 140/90mmHg.

‘RISK CALCULATORS’

The issue had been contested, with inconclusive evidence, but this is now the largest review of its type.

Study leader Prof Kazem Rahimi said: “Greater drops in blood pressure with medication lead to greater reductions in the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

“This holds true regardless of the starting blood pressure level, in people who previously had a heart attack or stroke, and in people who have never had heart disease.

“The fact that the relative effects are similar for everyone does not mean that everyone should be treated.

“This decision will depend on an individual’s likelihood of suffering cardiovascular disease in the future – there are a number of risk calculators health professionals can use.

“Other factors to consider are the potential for side effects and the cost of treatment.”

Prof Rahimi added: “The decision to prescribe blood pressure medication should not be based simply on a prior diagnosis of cardiovascular disease or an individual’s current blood pressure.

“Rather, blood pressure medication should be viewed as an effective tool for reducing cardiovascular risk when an individual’s probability of having a heart attack or stroke is elevated.”

The findings were presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress.

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