Intensive BP Target of Under 120mmHg Yields even Better Outcomes

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An intensive three-year intervention to lower systolic blood pressure (BP) to less than 120mmHg was more effective at preventing death, heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular events in adults at high risk for cardiovascular disease, compared to the standard treatment target of under 140mmHg, according to late-breaking science presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2023.

“Our study provides evidence to support targeting systolic blood pressure to less than 120mmHg in hypertensive patients with high cardiovascular risk and normal or mild-reduced kidney function, regardless of their diabetes status (Type 1, Type 2 or none) or history of stroke,” said lead study author Jing Li, MD, PhD, director of the department of preventive medicine at the National Center for Cardiovascular Diseases in Beijing, China.

The researchers conducted a multi-centre, randomised controlled trial to evaluate the effects of an intensive blood pressure-lowering strategy on the incidence of major cardiovascular events, including heart attack, stroke, cardiovascular death, revascularisation, or hospitalisation or emergency room visit for heart failure, in participants with increased cardiovascular risk.

Participants in the ESPRIT trial were randomised to receive intensive antihypertensive treatment with a systolic BP target of less than 120mmHg (using higher doses and multiple classes of drugs) or standard treatment, with a target measurement of under 140mmHg over a three-year period. Safety was assessed between treatment groups by comparing serious adverse events among participants.

The researchers found that after two years, participants in the intensive treatment group had significantly better outcomes than those receiving standard care. Compared with the standard treatment, the intensive treatment strategy prevented:

  • 12% of heart attacks, stroke, revascularisation procedures, death from cardiovascular causes and hospitalisation or emergency room visit for heart failure;
  • 39% of deaths from cardiovascular causes; and
  • 21% of deaths from any cause.
  • There was no significant difference in serious adverse events of hypotension, electrolyte abnormality, fall resulting in an injury, acute kidney injury or renal failure.

Syncope, or fainting, was one of the serious adverse events used to evaluate safety. Syncope occurred at a rate of 0.4% per year in the intensive group and 0.1% in the standard group. This means that for every 1000 patients receiving the intensive treatment for 3 years, 3 patients would experience a serious adverse event of syncope, while 14 major vascular events and 8 deaths would be further prevented, Li noted.

“These results provide evidence that intensive hypertension treatment focused on achieving systolic blood pressure of less than 120mmHg is beneficial and safe for individuals with high blood pressure and increased cardiovascular risk factors,” Li said. “Implementing this intensive treatment strategy for high-risk adults has the potential to save more lives and reduce the public health burden of heart disease worldwide.”

Study details and background:

  • The ESPRIT trial included 11,255 adults in China. Participants had a baseline systolic blood pressure measurement of 130–180mmHg and either established cardiovascular disease or at least two major risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
  • Participants were an average age of 64.6 years; 41.3% women and 58.7% men.
  • Approximately 27% of the study participants had a history of stroke; approximately 29% had previous coronary heart disease; and approximately 39% had diabetes, Type 1 or Type 2.
  • The trial’s primary outcome was a composite outcome of heart attack, coronary or non-coronary revascularisation, hospitalisation/emergency room visit for heart failure, stroke or CV death. Secondary outcomes included CV outcomes, kidney outcomes and cognitive outcomes.

Study limitations included that the cardiovascular benefits of the intensive intervention emerged after two years, while the intervention only lasted three years, meaning the relatively short study period may underestimate the benefits, Li said. In addition, the study was conducted in China and therefore, the results may not be generalisable to people in other racial and ethnic groups or living in other countries. However, Li also noted that the results were consistent with similar studies in people of other racial and ethnic groups.

Future work will involve examining the longer-term effects of the intensive intervention strategy over the follow-up period.

Source: American Heart Association

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