Intensive blood pressure control may help to reduce the risk of atrial fibrillation (AFib) in some patients. Scientists at Wake Forest School of Medicine released a study that found that lowering systolic blood pressure to less than 120 resulted in a 26% lower risk of AFib compared to systolic blood pressure of less than 140.
Published in the American Heart Association Journal, Hypertension, the study suggests those with an irregular heartbeat associated with atrial fibrillation could have serious complications such as stroke, heart failure, and heart attacks. However, by controlling blood pressure, the risk of AFib is lowered.
The study’s lead author, Elsayed Z. Soliman, M.D., spoke about the research saying: “This is the first evidence from a randomized controlled trial that showed benefit in reducing the risk of atrial fibrillation as a result of aggressive blood pressure control to a target of less than 120 mm Hg.”
The study used data from the National Institutes of Health Systolic Blood Pressure (SPRINT) trial which included 8,022 participants. Two groups were formed, one with 4,003 participants in an intensive blood pressure control group (target less than 120 mm Hg) and 4,019 participants in a standard lowering group (target less than 140 mm Hg).
Over a five-year follow-up period, only 88 AFib cases occurred in the intensive blood pressure lowering group while 118 cases occurred in the standard blood pressure-lowering group. Researchers found that the benefit of intensive blood pressure lowering on reducing the risk of AFib was similar in all groups of the participants regardless of race, sex, or levels of blood pressure.
“Hypertension is the most common modifiable risk factor for atrial fibrillation,” Soliman said. “And now, we have a potential pathway for prevention.”
Aggressive Blood Pressure Control
The SPRINT study was designed to answer how aggressive blood pressure control affects cardiovascular health. It was able to show that intensive treatment significantly reduces the rates of death and cardiovascular disease. As a result of the trial, the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology updated their clinical guidelines for high blood pressure.
High blood pressure is a common condition in which the long-term force of the blood against the artery walls is high enough that it may eventually cause health problems, such as heart disease. An estimated 103 million American’s suffer from high blood pressure, and many have secondary risk factors such as atrial fibrillation.
Leading health experts agree that lifestyle changes are key to managing blood pressure. Eating a heart-healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise can go a long way to keeping blood pressure under control. Reducing alcohol and caffeine, losing weight, and learning how to manage stress are also lifestyle changes that can help to lower blood pressure. Speak to your doctor about lowering blood pressure a more natural way through lifestyle changes.