What is an Evidence Summary?
Key messages from scientific research that's ready to be acted on
Got It, Hide this
Blood pressure–lowering drugs reduce cardiovascular events most in people with the highest initial risk
Sundstrom J, Arima H, Woodward M, et al. Blood pressure-lowering treatment based on cardiovascular risk: a meta-analysis of individual patient data. Lancet. 2014;384:591-8.
Do drugs that are used to treat high blood pressure reduce major cardiovascular events (e.g., stroke, heart attack, coronary heart disease) more in people who initially have a higher vs lower risk of those events?
High blood pressure is usually defined as having a systolic blood pressure of 140 mm Hg or more or a diastolic blood pressure of 90 mm Hg or more. High blood pressure doesn’t always cause symptoms but can, over time, weaken or narrow blood vessels and cause strokes, heart attacks, or other heart problems.
Drugs that lower blood pressure can also reduce risk of cardiovascular events. They may work better in people who are initially at higher risk of cardiovascular events (e.g., older people, smokers, people with a family history of high blood pressure).
How the review was done
The researchers included data from 11 randomized controlled trials involving 51,917 people (average age 65 years, 45% women) in their analysis.
The key features of the trials were:
- drugs were given to lower blood pressure and included angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (e.g., ramipril [Altace®], perindopril [Aceon®], trandolapril [Mavik®]), calcium channel blockers (e.g., amlodipine [Norvasc®, Amvaz®], felodipine [Plendil®]), and diuretics (e.g., indapamide [Lozol®]);
- most drugs were compared with placebo, although some trials compared higher-dose with lower-dose drugs; and
- outcome was major cardiovascular events (any of stroke, coronary heart disease [heart attack], heart failure [problems with the heart’s ability to pump blood], or other cardiovascular events).
What the researchers found
Compared with control (placebo or lower-dose drugs), blood pressure–lowering drugs:
- reduced major cardiovascular events regardless of initial risk level; and
- had a greater effect in people with the highest initial risk.
Blood pressure–lowering drugs reduce major cardiovascular events in people with different initial levels of risk. They provide the most benefit in people with the highest initial risk.
Blood pressure (BP)–lowering drugs vs control* in people with different levels of initial risk for major cardiovascular (CV) events†
About 14 fewer people out of 1000 had a major CV event
11% to 15%
About 20 fewer people out of 1000 had a major CV event
15% to 21%
About 24 fewer people out of 1000 had a major CV event
About 38 fewer people out of 1000 had a major CV event
Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors
A group of medications that control the hormone system that regulates blood pressure and water balance in the body.
Calcium channel blockers
A group of medications that reduce the stiffness of large blood vessels and therefore lower (systolic) blood pressure.
Coronary heart disease
Also known as coronary artery disease (CAD), is a narrowing of the blood vessels (coronary arteries) that supply oxygen and blood to the heart.
The lower number in a blood pressure reading. It is the pressure when the heart rests between beats.
Medications that increase the elimination of water from the body. Used to treat heart failure, high blood pressure, and some kidney diseases.
A harmless, inactive, and simulated treatment.
Randomized controlled trials
Studies where people are assigned to one of the treatments purely by chance.
The higher number in a blood pressure reading. It is the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats.
The body's network of blood vessels. It includes the arteries, veins, and capillaries that carry blood to and from the heart.
Related Evidence Summaries
Related Web Resources
Compression stockings help to prevent deep vein thrombosis (blood clots and swelling) after surgery. You can choose to wear thigh or knee length stockings.
Health Link B.C.
Men over 40 and women past menopause or over 50 should get screened for coronary artery disease (CAD) every 1 to 3 years. Your risk is higher if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, abdominal obesity, kidney disease, family history of CAD or if you smoke.
Informed Health Online
Eat less saturated fats in your diet to help prevent heart disease. Eat less meat, butter, cheese and cream to improve your health long-term.
DISCLAIMER These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal