Swedish researchers have discovered that the use of drugs to control blood pressure in people suffering from diabetes can raise the risk of heart attack in some patients, reports United Press International.
The research, recently published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), claims that although patients with systolic pressure above 140 benefited from the use of the drugs, potential risk increased in patients with pressure of 140 or less.
Diabetes is a chronic illness, affecting over 29 million people in the United States, in which the body is unable to safely regulate blood glucose levels. Without medication these levels can become dangerously high. To make matters worse, many with diabetes also suffer from hypertension (high blood pressure) and cardiovascular disease, for which doctors often recommend antihypertensive treatment, says a report in the Medical Daily.
Meanwhile, over seventy million people in the United States suffer from high blood pressure – defined as systolic pressure above 140 and diastolic pressure above 90 – and experts have generally recommended aiming to bring blood pressure under control at around 140. However, more recent studies have proposed a stronger goal for systolic pressure of 120, claiming this can substantially reduce risk of cardiovascular incident and death.
Now new research published by a team of scientists at Umea University in Sweden seems to suggest that, in the case of patients also suffering from diabetes, there are other complications that can render such an aggressive goal undesirable, as it may increase the likelihood of a diabetic patient dying from stroke or heart attack. Nonetheless, the paper’s main author, Mattias Brunstrom, warns that the lowering of blood pressure is still crucial for the majority of people with diabetes:
[B]lood pressure lowering treatment is crucial for the majority of people with diabetes whose blood pressure measures above 140.
However, for diabetic patients whose systolic blood pressure was under 140 at the time of starting treatment, antihypertensive drugs increased their risk of cardiovascular death by fifteen percent. Brunstrom said he hoped that in the coming years the paper would influence guidelines regarding the treatment of high blood pressure in diabetic patients worldwide:
Many treatment guidelines, both Swedish and international, will be redrawn in the next few years. It has been discussed to recommend even lower blood pressure levels for people with diabetes — maybe as low as 130. We are hoping that our study, which shows potential risks of such aggressive blood pressure lowering treatment, will come to influence these guidelines.
Regardless of this, Mr Brunstrom added that it is important to remember that undertreatment of high blood pressure is a greater problem overall than is overtreatment.