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Published: Tuesday, December 27, 2011, 12:01 a.m.

Blood-pressure drugs prolong lives, research confirms

The average high-blood-pressure patient lives live one day longer for each month of treatment with antihypertensive drug therapy, according to researchers from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.
"This may correspond to more than a year for people who start treatment in their 50s," said John B. Kostis, chairman of the department of medicine at the university's Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. He is the lead author of a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
One might assume that taking medicine for a chronic condition would lengthen one's life. But in the case of high blood pressure, that theory needed to be proven, researchers said.
The researchers went back and tracked the mortality and cause-of-death data for the 4,700 people who participated in an antihypertensive drug treatment therapy study that lasted from 1985 to 1990. In that study, researchers determined that high-blood-pressure medicines significantly decreased a patient's risk of stroke, heart attack and heart failure.
Kostis said mortality rates needed to be looked at over time to see if researchers could also claim that the medicines extended life. Such studies can't usually be done on medications for cancer and other diseases that have lower survival rates.
But people can live a long time with hypertension if they can avoid an escalation of the disease, so there was value in establishing that the medicines themselves can increase life expectancy, Kostis said.
"There is resistance from some patients to treatment, especially with younger men, who don't always see the need to take medications because high blood pressure doesn't cause them to feel any symptoms," Kostis said. "If you tell him to treat it because you are going to live longer if you do, the patient is going to listen better."
Story tags » Medical researchMedicines

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