TUESDAY, Dec. 20 (HealthDay News) -- People suffering from high blood pressure, or hypertension, who keep their blood pressure levels under control may add years to their life, a new study suggests.
In fact, those in the study who took medicine to lower their blood pressure for more than four years reduced their risk of dying from cardiovascular disease over a 20-year period, the researchers found.
"For the first time, we prove that treating high blood pressure prolongs life," said lead researcher Dr. John Kostis, a professor of medicine & pharmacology at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, N.J.
"If you take your medications for a month, you live an extra day," he said. "One day benefit from a month of treatment sounds small, but if you start treatment at 40, for example, then you live a couple of extra years."
Although the antihypertensive diuretic chlorthalidone was used in the study, it really doesn't make a difference which antihypertensive one uses; the benefit in terms of life expectancy should be the same, Kostis said.
"The main thing is to take medication to get blood pressure under control," he said. "Treat your hypertension early so you can benefit from a longer, happier life."
The report was published in the Dec. 21 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
To determine the effect antihypertensive drugs might have on extending life, Kostis and his colleagues used data from the Systolic Hypertension in the Elderly Program (SHEP) trial.
In that trial, conducted between 1985 and 1990, more than 4,000 hypertensive patients were randomly assigned to take chlorthalidone or an inactive placebo. The patients in the study were an average of 72 years of age.
Kostis noted that if chlorthalidone didn't work, patients were given a beta blocker.
At the end of the trial, all of the pati
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