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Effects of Intensive Blood Pressure Lowering on Cardiovascular and Renal Outcomes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

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      In a systematic review and meta-analysis Vlado Perkovic and colleagues investigate whether more intensive blood pressure lowering regimens are associated with greater reductions in the risk of major cardiovascular events and end stage kidney disease.


      BackgroundGuidelines recommend intensive blood pressure (BP) lowering in patients at high risk. While placebo-controlled trials have demonstrated 22% reductions in coronary heart disease (CHD) and stroke associated with a 10-mmHg difference in systolic BP, it is unclear if more intensive BP lowering strategies are associated with greater reductions in risk of CHD and stroke. We did a systematic review to assess the effects of intensive BP lowering on vascular, eye, and renal outcomes.Methods and FindingsWe systematically searched Medline, Embase, and the Cochrane Library for trials published between 1950 and July 2011. We included trials that randomly assigned individuals to different target BP levels.We identified 15 trials including a total of 37,348 participants. On average there was a 7.5/4.5-mmHg BP difference. Intensive BP lowering achieved relative risk (RR) reductions of 11% for major cardiovascular events (95% CI 1%–21%), 13% for myocardial infarction (0%–25%), 24% for stroke (8%–37%), and 11% for end stage kidney disease (3%–18%). Intensive BP lowering regimens also produced a 10% reduction in the risk of albuminuria (4%–16%), and a trend towards benefit for retinopathy (19%, 0%–34%, p = 0.051) in patients with diabetes. There was no clear effect on cardiovascular or noncardiovascular death. Intensive BP lowering was well tolerated; with serious adverse events uncommon and not significantly increased, except for hypotension (RR 4.16, 95% CI 2.25 to 7.70), which occurred infrequently (0.4% per 100 person-years).ConclusionsIntensive BP lowering regimens provided greater vascular protection than standard regimens that was proportional to the achieved difference in systolic BP, but did not have any clear impact on the risk of death or serious adverse events. Further trials are required to more clearly define the risks and benefits of BP targets below those currently recommended, given the benefits suggested by the currently available data.Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary.

      Editors' Summary

      BackgroundAbout a third of US and UK adults have high blood pressure (hypertension). Although hypertension has no obvious symptoms, it can lead to heart attacks, stroke, and other forms of cardiovascular disease, to kidney failure, and to retinopathy (blindness caused by damage to the blood vessels in the back of the eye). Hypertension is diagnosed by measuring blood pressure (BP)—the force that blood moving around the body exerts on the inside of large blood vessels. BP is highest when the heart is pumping out blood (systolic BP) and lowest when it is refilling with blood (diastolic BP). A normal adult BP is defined as a systolic BP of less than 130 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and a diastolic BP of less than 85 mmHg (a BP of 130/85). A reading of more than 140/90 indicates hypertension. Many factors affect BP, but overweight people and individuals who eat fatty or salty food are at high risk of developing hypertension. Mild hypertension can be corrected by making lifestyle changes, but people often take antihypertensive drugs to reduce their BP.Why Was This Study Done?Doctors usually try to reduce the BP of their hypertensive patients to 140/90 mmHg. However, some treatment guidelines now advocate a target BP of 130/80 mmHg for individuals at high risk of life-threatening cardiovascular events, such as people with diabetes or kidney impairment. But does more intensive BP lowering actually reduce the risk of heart attacks and stroke? Although placebo-controlled randomized trials of BP lowering have suggested that a 10 mmHg fall in systolic BP is associated with a 22% reduction in the risk in coronary heart disease and a 41% reduction in the risk of stroke, it is unclear whether intensive BP lowering strategies are associated with greater reductions in the risk of cardiovascular disease than standard strategies. In this systematic review (a search that uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic) and meta-analysis (a statistical method for combining the results of studies), the researchers investigate the effects of intensive BP lowering on cardiovascular, eye, and renal outcomes.What Did the Researchers Do and Find?The researchers identified 15 randomized controlled trials in which more than 37,000 participants were randomly assigned to antihypertensive drug-based strategies designed to achieve different target BPs. On average, the more intensive strategies reduced the BP of participants by 7.5/4.5 mmHg more than the less intensive strategies. Compared to standard BP lowering strategies, more intensive BP lowering strategies reduced the risk of major cardiovascular events (a composite endpoint comprising heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and cardiovascular death) by 11%, the risk of heart attack by 13%, the risk of stroke by 24%, the risk of end-stage kidney disease by 11%, and the risk of albuminuria (protein in the urine, a sign of kidney damage) by 10%. There was also a trend towards a reduced risk for retinopathy with more intensive BP lowering but no clear reduction in cardiovascular or noncardiovascular deaths. Finally, aiming for a lower BP target did not increase the rate of drug discontinuation or the risk of serious adverse events apart from hypotension (very low BP).What Do These Findings Mean?These findings suggest that, although intensive BP lowering regimens have no clear effect on the risk of death, they may provide greater protection against cardiovascular events than standard BP lowering regimens. Indeed, the researchers calculate that among every thousand hypertensive patients with a high cardiovascular risk, more intensive BP lowering could prevent two of the 20 cardiovascular events expected to happen every year. Although intensive BP lowering did not seem to increase the risk of severe adverse effects, the accuracy of this finding is limited by inconsistent reporting of adverse events in the trials included in this study. Moreover, because most of the trial participants had additional risk factors for cardiovascular events such as diabetes and chronic kidney disease, these findings may not be generalizable to people with hypertension alone. Thus, although this study suggests that a target BP of 130/80 is likely to produce an additional overall benefit compared to a target of 140/90, more trials are needed to confirm this conclusion and to determine the best way to reach the lower target.Additional InformationPlease access these websites via the online version of this summary at US National Heart Lung and Blood Institute has patient information about high blood pressure (in English and Spanish)The American Heart Association provides information on high blood pressure and on cardiovascular diseases (in several languages); it also provides personal stories from people dealing with high blood pressureThe UK National Health Service (NHS) Choices website also provides detailed information for patients about hypertension, cardiovascular disease and kidney disease; the NHS Local website has a collection of personal stories about hypertension and a series of films that explain hypertensionMedlinePlus provides links to further information about high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease (in English and Spanish)

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      Most cited references 42

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      Bias in meta-analysis detected by a simple, graphical test.

      Funnel plots (plots of effect estimates against sample size) may be useful to detect bias in meta-analyses that were later contradicted by large trials. We examined whether a simple test of asymmetry of funnel plots predicts discordance of results when meta-analyses are compared to large trials, and we assessed the prevalence of bias in published meta-analyses. Medline search to identify pairs consisting of a meta-analysis and a single large trial (concordance of results was assumed if effects were in the same direction and the meta-analytic estimate was within 30% of the trial); analysis of funnel plots from 37 meta-analyses identified from a hand search of four leading general medicine journals 1993-6 and 38 meta-analyses from the second 1996 issue of the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. Degree of funnel plot asymmetry as measured by the intercept from regression of standard normal deviates against precision. In the eight pairs of meta-analysis and large trial that were identified (five from cardiovascular medicine, one from diabetic medicine, one from geriatric medicine, one from perinatal medicine) there were four concordant and four discordant pairs. In all cases discordance was due to meta-analyses showing larger effects. Funnel plot asymmetry was present in three out of four discordant pairs but in none of concordant pairs. In 14 (38%) journal meta-analyses and 5 (13%) Cochrane reviews, funnel plot asymmetry indicated that there was bias. A simple analysis of funnel plots provides a useful test for the likely presence of bias in meta-analyses, but as the capacity to detect bias will be limited when meta-analyses are based on a limited number of small trials the results from such analyses should be treated with considerable caution.
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        The Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure: the JNC 7 report.

        "The Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure" provides a new guideline for hypertension prevention and management. The following are the key messages(1) In persons older than 50 years, systolic blood pressure (BP) of more than 140 mm Hg is a much more important cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factor than diastolic BP; (2) The risk of CVD, beginning at 115/75 mm Hg, doubles with each increment of 20/10 mm Hg; individuals who are normotensive at 55 years of age have a 90% lifetime risk for developing hypertension; (3) Individuals with a systolic BP of 120 to 139 mm Hg or a diastolic BP of 80 to 89 mm Hg should be considered as prehypertensive and require health-promoting lifestyle modifications to prevent CVD; (4) Thiazide-type diuretics should be used in drug treatment for most patients with uncomplicated hypertension, either alone or combined with drugs from other classes. Certain high-risk conditions are compelling indications for the initial use of other antihypertensive drug classes (angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, angiotensin-receptor blockers, beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers); (5) Most patients with hypertension will require 2 or more antihypertensive medications to achieve goal BP (<140/90 mm Hg, or <130/80 mm Hg for patients with diabetes or chronic kidney disease); (6) If BP is more than 20/10 mm Hg above goal BP, consideration should be given to initiating therapy with 2 agents, 1 of which usually should be a thiazide-type diuretic; and (7) The most effective therapy prescribed by the most careful clinician will control hypertension only if patients are motivated. Motivation improves when patients have positive experiences with and trust in the clinician. Empathy builds trust and is a potent motivator. Finally, in presenting these guidelines, the committee recognizes that the responsible physician's judgment remains paramount.
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          Age-specific relevance of usual blood pressure to vascular mortality: a meta-analysis of individual data for one million adults in 61 prospective studies.

          The age-specific relevance of blood pressure to cause-specific mortality is best assessed by collaborative meta-analysis of individual participant data from the separate prospective studies. Information was obtained on each of one million adults with no previous vascular disease recorded at baseline in 61 prospective observational studies of blood pressure and mortality. During 12.7 million person-years at risk, there were about 56000 vascular deaths (12000 stroke, 34000 ischaemic heart disease [IHD], 10000 other vascular) and 66000 other deaths at ages 40-89 years. Meta-analyses, involving "time-dependent" correction for regression dilution, related mortality during each decade of age at death to the estimated usual blood pressure at the start of that decade. Within each decade of age at death, the proportional difference in the risk of vascular death associated with a given absolute difference in usual blood pressure is about the same down to at least 115 mm Hg usual systolic blood pressure (SBP) and 75 mm Hg usual diastolic blood pressure (DBP), below which there is little evidence. At ages 40-69 years, each difference of 20 mm Hg usual SBP (or, approximately equivalently, 10 mm Hg usual DBP) is associated with more than a twofold difference in the stroke death rate, and with twofold differences in the death rates from IHD and from other vascular causes. All of these proportional differences in vascular mortality are about half as extreme at ages 80-89 years as at ages 40-49 years, but the annual absolute differences in risk are greater in old age. The age-specific associations are similar for men and women, and for cerebral haemorrhage and cerebral ischaemia. For predicting vascular mortality from a single blood pressure measurement, the average of SBP and DBP is slightly more informative than either alone, and pulse pressure is much less informative. Throughout middle and old age, usual blood pressure is strongly and directly related to vascular (and overall) mortality, without any evidence of a threshold down to at least 115/75 mm Hg.

            Author and article information

            [1 ]The George Institute for Global Health, The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
            [2 ]Renal Division, Department of Medicine, Peking University First Hospital, Beijing, China
            [3 ]Department of Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, United States of America
            [4 ]Department of Medicine and Clinical Science Graduate School of Medical Sciences, Kyushu University, Japan
            Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, United Kingdom
            Author notes

            JL has received grant support from Pfizer for hypertension research. VP, MW, SM, and JC have received honoraria from Servier for scientific presentations relating to blood pressure. SM and JC were principal investigators on ADVANCE, a blood pressure lowering trial funded by Servier and the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council. BN has received BP-related research support from Servier, and honoraria for scientific presentations related to blood pressure from Novartis, Tanabe, and Servier. AR has received an unrestricted grant from Dr Reddy’s Laboratories for a trial that includes blood pressure-lowering agents. PE, FT, TN, HW, and GH declare they have no competing interests.

            Conceived and designed the experiments: JL VP. Performed the experiments: JL PE. Analyzed the data: JL BN PE VP. Wrote the first draft of the manuscript: JL. Contributed to the writing of the manuscript: JL BN PE VP. ICMJE criteria for authorship read and met: JL BN PE TN MW AR HW SM FT GH JC VP. Agree with manuscript results and conclusions: JL BN PE TN MW AR HW SM FT GH JC VP. Contributed to data interpretation and critical revision of the report: TN MW AR HW SM FT GH JC.

            Role: Academic Editor
            PLoS Med
            PLoS Med
            PLoS Medicine
            Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
            August 2012
            August 2012
            21 August 2012
            : 9
            : 8
            (Academic Editor)

            This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

            Pages: 14
            JL was supported by an Amgen Renal Research Fellowship. VP was supported by an Australian Heart Foundation Career Development Award. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
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