Other Cardiovascular Benefits of Blood Pressure Medications

According to a recent study, many blood pressure medications do more than lower BP. They help the heart in other ways as well

Let's face it: if you take blood pressure medications, it's because you've got a serious cardiovascular problem. Oh, it's a common one, but no less dangerous for all that. Obviously, then, medicines that lower your BP are good for your heart.

But you may be interested to learn that they're even better for your heart than you previously thought.

Extra, Extra, Read All About It!

In March 2011, researchers at Tulane University released the results of an analysis of 25 previous studies, demonstrating that BP meds seem to be good all around for the average ticker... even those that aren't hypertensive.

While they caution that more work needs to be done to test their findings, the preliminary results show that the risk of heart attack, stroke, congestive heart failure, and death were lower in patients who took BP-lowering meds than in those who did not.

A Quick Aside

It's important to note, before we get into the results, that many of the people in the study either had normal or slightly elevated blood pressure.

That made it easier to see the other results of the medications used, but patients with lower BPs were also chosen because other studies have demonstrated a greater risk of cardiovascular issues for even slightly elevated BPs, beginning with systolic readings as low as 115.

In other words, just because your blood pressure is lower than the accepted high BP level of 140/90, that doesn't mean you won't have BP-related cardiovascular issues at some point.

About Those Results

Though not startling, the study's results are indeed compelling. In the 25 trials analyzed, researchers followed about 65,000 patients for an average of two years. Some took genuine BP medications; others took placebo (dummy) pills.

Those who took real medications did significantly better. Risk of stroke decreased by 23%, congestive heart failure by 29%, heart attack by 20%, and death by 13%. Needless to say, those who took real meds also lowered their BPs somewhat.

The Interpretation

There are two possible interpretations here, either of which may be true... or neither. The researchers don't know what the explanation is, as they didn't design their study to look for the mechanism -- just the effect.

One possibility, which would contradict a study I wrote about here a few months ago, is that lowering the blood pressure well below the 140/90 cutoff does lower risk of heart disease and death. Another is that these meds have other beneficial effects for the cardiovascular system beyond lowering BP.

Until researchers do further work on the effect observed in the Tulane study, we can't be sure what the explanation is. But rest assured: one way or another, your blood pressure medications are good for you!

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