High blood pressure: Early treatment may offer protection

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High blood pressure: Early treatment may offer protection

Study suggests early medication may help prevent high blood pressure.

What happened? A new study has found that treating above-normal blood pressure (prehypertension) with medication and lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of eventually developing high blood pressure (hypertension).

Normal blood pressure is below 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Higher readings are classified as:

  • Prehypertension — 120/80 to 139/89
  • Stage 1 hypertension — 140/90 to 159/99
  • Stage 2 hypertension — 160/100 or higher

As your blood pressure rises, so does your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Researchers studied a group of people in the upper range of prehypertension. Half took the angiotensin receptor blocker candesartan (Atacand) for two years, and the other half took a placebo. All participants took a placebo for an additional two years. Researchers encouraged healthy lifestyle changes for all participants throughout the study.

Among participants who took candesartan, the risk of developing high blood pressure dropped by 66 percent during the first two years of the study. Medication side effects were minimal, including headaches and dizziness. And the benefits lasted well past the time the medication was stopped. By the fourth year — after two years of taking only a placebo — the risk of developing high blood pressure dropped by 15 percent.

What does this mean to you? Although the results of this study are promising, the long-term effects of early medication are unknown. In the meantime, the best strategy for preventing and controlling high blood pressure begins with lifestyle changes. Eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight. Keep your stress under control. If you smoke, quit.

If you have prehypertension, ask your doctor about the risks and benefits of adding medication — perhaps intermittently — to your treatment plan.

Last Updated: 03/17/2006
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