Hypertension: empirical evidence and implications in 2014

Makridakis, Spyros ; DiNicolantonio, James J. (2014-05-28)


High blood pressure (HBP) or hypertension (HTN) is one of the leading causes of cardiovascular (CV) morbidity and mortality throughout the world. Despite this fact, there is widespread agreement that the treatment of HBP, over the last half century, has been a great achievement. However, after the release of the new Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation and Treatment of High Blood Pressure-8 ( JNC-8) guidelines, there have been heated debates with regard to what are the most evidence-based blood pressure goals. While JNC-8 claims that the goal blood pressure for otherwise healthy patients with mild hypertension (systolic blood pressure ≥140–159 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure ≥90–99 mm Hg) should be <140/90 mm Hg; a recent Cochrane meta-analysis is in direct conflict with these recommendations. Indeed, a 2012 Cochrane metaanalysis indicated that there is no evidence that treating otherwise healthy mild hypertension patients with antihypertensive therapy will reduce CV events or mortality. Additionally, the Cochrane meta-analysis showed that antihypertensive therapy was associated with a significant increase in withdrawal due to adverse events. Thus, the current evidence in the literature does not support the goals set by the JNC-8 guidelines. In this review we discussed the strengths and limitations of both lines of evidence and why it takes an evidence-based medication to reduce CV events/mortality (eg, how a goal blood pressure is achieved is more important than getting to the goal). As medications inherently cause side effects and come at a cost to the patient, the practice of evidence-based medicine becomes exceedingly important. Although the majority of HTN studies claim great advantages by lowering HBP, this review finds severe conflicts in the findings among the various HTN studies, as well as serious epistemological, methodological and statistical problems that cast doubt to such claims.

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