In a new study, researchers found adults who received more intensive treatment to lower their blood pressure were less likely to experience drastic blood pressure drops, which can cause dizziness and increase risk of falling.
The team examined more than 2,800 adults, average age 63 with a recent stroke.
They monitored response to blood pressure medication in two groups of patients.
Half of the participants were treated more aggressively, aiming to reduce blood pressure to levels below 130/80 mmHg.
The other half received less intensive therapy allowing them to maintain a slightly higher blood pressure of between 130-149/80-90 mmHg or more.
The team found that a lower systolic blood pressure goal was linked to a lower risk of sudden drops in blood pressure when changing position from sitting to standing — a condition known as orthostatic hypotension (OH).
Systolic blood pressure is the top number in a blood pressure reading and a marker of the force of blood flow against the arteries when the heart contracts.
Optimal blood pressure helps reduce the risk for heart attacks and strokes, however, aggressive blood pressure treatment in older adults has long been thought to contribute to falls.
Falling is a well-known risk factor for fractures, prolonged hospitalization and even death in older individuals.
One in four older adults experience a fall each year, according to the National Council on Aging.
The team says falls can be devastating in this older population. As a result, there is substantial concern about anything that might increase their fall risk.
However, this study provides strong evidence that intense blood pressure treatment does not induce orthostatic hypotension or its symptoms.
One author of the study is Stephen Juraschek, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
The study was presented at the American Heart Association’s Hypertension 2019 Scientific Sessions.
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