New American research has found that intensively lowering blood pressure could reduce the risk of atrial fibrillation (AF), an irregular heartbeat also known as a heart flutter.
Carried out by scientists at Wake Forest School of Medicine, the new study looked at data from a study called the National Institutes of Health Systolic Blood Pressure (SPRINT) trial, which looked at individuals with hypertension (high blood pressure) and a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
The researchers had access to data on 8,022 participants who were free of AF at the start of the study and who were randomly split into two groups.
One was an intensive blood pressure control group with 4,003 subjects being given medication to lower their systolic blood pressure to a target of less than 120 mmHg.
The other was a standard blood pressure lowering group with 4,019 participants being given the same medications, but with a target systolic blood pressure of less than 140 mmHg instead.
The participants were then followed for up to five years.
The findings, published in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension, showed that lowering systolic blood pressure to less than 120 mmHg resulted in a 26% lower risk of AF, compared to having a systolic blood pressure of less than 140 mmHg.
Moreover, the effect of intensive blood pressure lowering on the risk of AF was similar in all participants, regardless of their sex, race or levels of blood pressure.
“This is the first evidence from a randomised controlled trial that showed benefit in reducing the risk of AF as a result of aggressive blood pressure control to a target of less than 120 mmHg,” said study lead author Dr Elsayed Z. Soliman.
“Hypertension is the most common modifiable risk factor for AF,” he said. “And now, we have a potential pathway for prevention.”
AF is the most common heart rhythm disorder.
The likelihood of developing the condition increases with age, and more than half of AF patients are aged 80 or older.
Symptoms include chest pain, “racing” or unusual heart palpitations, weakness, fatigue, lightheadedness, dizziness and shortness of breath.
The condition increases the risk of stroke, other medical problems and death.
Previous findings from the SPRINT trial published by the researchers have shown that lowering blood pressure may also reduce the risk of cognitive impairment and slow down age-related brain damage. – AFP Relaxnews
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