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When Heart Is in Crisis, High Blood Pressure a Good Sign
Date:3/23/2010

Study finds better survival rates a year after intensive care

TUESDAY, March 23 (HealthDay News) -- High blood pressure -- even above the level ordinarily regarded as dangerous -- is a good indicator of long-term survival for people admitted to an intensive care unit because of chest pains that indicate a major heart problem, Swedish researchers report.

Their study, which involved 119,151 people admitted to ICUs for chest pain between 1997 and 2007, found the best one-year survival rate among those who had a systolic pressure (the higher of the recommended 120/80 number) at or above 163, according to a report in the March 24/31 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study was conducted at Swedish hospitals by physicians at Linkoping University.

Survival was poorest for the one-quarter of people who had the lowest blood pressure readings, less than 128 systolic, the study found. Their one-year death rate was 40.3 percent higher than for those in the next category up, with a systolic pressure of 128 to 144.

Overall, as blood pressure levels rose, the one-year death rate declined. Compared with people with a systolic reading of 128 to 144, those with readings between 145 and 162 had a 15.2 percent lower death rate, and people in the highest category, with a systolic reading of 163 or greater, had a 21.7 percent lower death rate.

There have been hints of such an effect in previous studies, said Dr. Gregg C. Fonarow, a professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, who led one such study, which included people with acute heart failure.

That study did find improved survival associated with higher blood pressure, and other studies have found a similar effect during a hospital stay, "but this is the first study looking at one-year survival," Fonarow said.

Why should blood pressure normally regarded as dangerously high be beneficial? "It could
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