Major New Study: Getting Blood Pressure Below 120 Saves Lives – and Increases Risks

A new just-released study may transform the medical treatment of high blood pressure.

High blood pressure is super common in the modern world – about a third of the adult US population have it, and another third have borderline high blood pressure. Only one third of the adult population have “normal” pressure (under 120/80). High blood pressure increases the risk of diseases like heart disease and stroke.

The most common treatment by far – and the only treatment that doctors have time for during a 10-minute consultation – is drugs. It’s not uncommon for people with high blood pressure to get one, two, four or even more drugs to take daily for controlling their blood pressure.

The question has been how aggressively to treat high blood pressure in people at risk of complications from it. Earlier studies has only proved a benefit from lowering blood pressure to below 140 systolic pressure. Studies targeting lower goals have been small and inconclusive.

This new big study – funded by the National Institute of Health and other government organizations (not the pharma industry) – compared a goal of below 120 to a goal of below 140. The results were so clear that the study was stopped in advance after 3.2 years.

The good news

Risk of premature death during the study dropped by about 1.2 percent in absolute numbers in the intensively treated group. In other words participants had a 1.2 percent greater chance of not dying during the study, due to taking more blood pressure lowering drugs. This is actually quite impressive. The risk of cardiovascular problems also dropped significantly.

The bad news

Lowering blood pressure this much required on average 3 drugs to be taken daily. Quite a few patients needed 4 or more drugs. All these drugs come with the risk of side effects.

Unfortunately the risk of serious side effects also increased – like the risk of ending up in the ER due to fainting from low blood pressure (risk up by 1.1 percent in absolute numbers) or having your kidneys damaged or totally give up on you (risk up by 1.3 percent).

The bottom line

Yes, it’s good for cardiovascular health to have a normal blood pressure. But aggressively lowering it with drugs always comes with side effects. These are not just about the serious things that makes you end up in the hospital. The more minor side effects are much more common. Feeling tired, lacking energy, gaining weight from beta-blockers, etc.

The really good news is that you can improve your blood pressure without 3, 4 or more daily drugs. And without any of the side effects. Here’s how:

How to Normalize Your Blood Pressure

17 Comments

  1. smc
    "In other words participants had a 1.2 percent chance of not dying during the study,..."

    This sounds like a very dangerous study. The wording is a little confusing. Do you mean a 1.2 percent greater chance of not dying? Or that your chance of dying was reduced by 1.2 percent?

    Reply: #2
  2. Very true. I changed to "greater" chance.
  3. BobM
    So, if 1/3 of the people have "normal" blood pressure, how is that a definition of "normal"? Isn't normal supposed to be defined by that point at which 50% of the population has blood pressure below and 50% has blood pressure above that point? This is the problem with all of these values, they all keep decreasing until most people are considered to be "sick" based on the standards.

    Also, "high" blood pressure is associated with a risk of heart disease and stroke. That does not mean high blood pressure causes heart disease and stroke. Personally, I believe insulin resistance causes high blood pressure and high blood pressure is simply a marker for the underlying condition of insulin resistance, which actually causes heart disease. Guess what causes insulin resistance in my theory? Excessive carbohydrate intake.

    Reply: #4
  4. Actually 2/3 of the population can be "abnormal" because our environment is not normal. Looking at populations not living in a "modern" environment they're usually below 120/80 their entire lives. Excessive carb intake/metabolic syndrome could be the main driver of hypertension.
  5. Martha
    All I have to say is 5 years ago, before LCHF: 140/90
    Within 4 months of LCHF & ever since: 110/70.

    What else does anyone need to know? ;)

    Replies: #11, #13
  6. palo
    There was a time that normal systolic blood pressure was 100 plus your age.

    Big Pharma hires a bunch of corrupt doctors that, like trained seals, declare everybody should have 120/80 bp and all of a sudden you have billions of sick people in the world and more billions of $ revenues for Big Pharma.

    What great business acumen!

    Reply: #7
  7. Except this study was not funded by Big Pharma, and just about all the blood pressure lowering drug are available as generics, very cheaply.

    Plus in societies not eating tons of refined carbs people do not get hypertension as they age. They stay at a normal level, like young people.

    Replies: #10, #17
  8. Tor H
    Why does the body feel the need to increase blood pressure, and why should one work against it by lowering it with drugs?

    The pressure is high for a reason. Solve the problem and the pressure will normalize itself.

    Reply: #9
  9. Sure, I agree that solving the problem should definitely be the first choice. Unfortunately it requires a lot bigger lifestyle change then simply taking a few pills every day, but it's the only way to do it without all the side effects of the drugs.
  10. Stipetic
    I believe Taubes addressed the drop in blood pressure that happens once carbs are reduced or eliminated from the diet in Good Calories, Bad Calories (Diet Delusion). He may even have provided a mechanism by which it does this. I vaguely recall volume redistribution (peeing out water) and possibly a direct effect on RAAS. This approach is much cheaper than meds, despite the plethora of generics out there, and tastier too.
  11. Sonnenblume
    Martha, good for you!

    11 months into LCHF and blood pressure is still ca 140/90 on a regular day after work - despite of the medication! In the mornings (before coffee) I average ca 125/75. As I am clearly out of further ideas/options on what to do next (sleep 8 hrs - check! yoga + HIIT - check! Food - check! IF 16:8 five days a week - check! Blood Sugar normal - check!), I think I'll just try not to give a damn and live life to the fullest. Maybe that just is "my" blood pressure.

    Reply: #12
  12. smc
    How much coffee are you drinking? Have you thought about doing a test -- trying a day without coffee? Caffeine certainly tends to raise blood pressure.

    http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/exp...

    Reply: #14
  13. Bjarte Bakke Team Diet Doctor
    Nicely done Martha!

    Bjarte - Team Diet Doctor

  14. Sonnenblume
    smc, I drink one cup in the morning, and another in the afternoon after lunch. I have a hard time believing that this would be the reason. I have quite severe migraine, and contrary to many, mine stays away with coffee - so not very into a "cold turkey" Experiment. Also, my doctor (very supportive of the LCHF Lifestyle, btw!!) was of the opinion that the reasons lie elsewhere. It could be my weight (I am still overweight at 95kg to my 180cm although nobody seems to believe my weight), but at the same time there has been no change whatsoever in pressures after losing 9 kg! since on LCHF - so I am doubtful on that as well.

    As said, maybe ist just better to let go :) an try to live worry-free.

  15. Martin
    Hello Sonnenblume,
    is it possible that with our Name you are writing from Germany? If so, could you tell me where to find this LCHF supporting doctor you mentioned? This is quite rare.
    My blood pressure went down after 6 months of LCHF from 130/85 to 100/60 which is already on the low side. The funny thing is that my doctor wants to prove that all my fat eating results in higher blood pressure; so it is always the first thing he is doing and he cannot believe it. Unfortunately he does not come to the idea to test LCHF on real high blood pressure patients.
    I am at 120/80 after 2 Cups of coffee with cream and coconut oil.
    chhers to all
  16. Sonnenblume
    Martin, you are correct, I live in Germany, in the Rhine-Main area. My doctor, a regular Hausarzt, advocates more of the Low-glycemic diet for patients with my history (sorry, won't go into details here, too personal :) ) but as I told him about LCHF and my decision to try it instead, also in view of lowering the BP and my weight, his words were in line of "no-one really needs carbs anyways", "as long as you don't eat 36 eggs per DAY, all is good" and was of the opinion that as long as I feel good doing what I do (and my bloodwork supports this), I can eat however I want. I think this is due to my generally good health (only thing "not ok" is the damned blood pressure!), maybe the advice would be different to a different Patient Profile.
  17. palo
    Doc, you misunderstood my comment. I did not refer to the study in the article. I referred as to how Bi Pharma used doctors to create a population of billions of "sick" people to be medicated by them and earn billions of $.

    High blood pressure medications are not a panacea. They carry numerous harmful side effects. Naturally is the way you lower bp.

    I'm surprised of your defense of Big Pharma, who with statins and other deadly drugs have killed millions.

    I know you are very busy running the website and attending your lovely family. For your convenience. Here is a website that has hundreds of studies that show how deadly Big Pharma drugs are:

    http://healthydietsandscience.blogspot.com/

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