For Blood Pressure: How Low to Go?

A key question for doctors and patients has been whether aggressively lowering blood pressure to a goal of 120/80 could protect the brain from this kind of damage.

In 2010, the National Institutes of Health launched a major clinical trial testing whether it was indeed better to prescribe more medication to try to help patients achieve normal blood pressure, compared with the old, widely accepted goal of 140/90.

The study enrolled more than 9,300 people who had high blood pressure and at least one thing that made heart disease more likely. It did not include people with diabetes or those who’d had a stroke.

On average, patients needed one additional medication to reach the goal of normal blood pressure. Patients in the standard group took 2 different blood pressure medications, compared with 3 for the more aggressively managed group. Doctors could prescribe any combination of medications they deemed necessary to reach the treatment goal.