Raised blood pressure with age, hypertension, strongly correlates with cardiovascular disease risk and overall mortality. Hypertension is an important downstream mechanism in aging, a way in which low level biochemical damage – such as cross-linking that stiffens blood vessel walls, or inflammation that produces dysfunction in smooth muscle cells – gives rise to pressure damage to sensitive tissues throughout the body. Hypertension accelerates the progression of atherosclerosis, the development of fatty deposits that weaken and narrow blood vessels, and is associated with a greater risk of atrial fibrillation, an abnormal heart rhythm. This latter correlation may be due to the way in which hypertension produces changes in the structure of the heart, such as a growth and weakening of heart muscle.
Intensive blood pressure control may reduce the risk of atrial fibrillation (AFib), an irregular heartbeat that can lead to serious complications such as stroke, heart failure, and heart attacks. Researchers found that lowering a systolic blood pressure to less than 120 resulted in a 26% lower risk of AFib compared to systolic blood pressure of less than 140.
This analysis, using data from the National Institutes of Health Systolic Blood Pressure (SPRINT) trial, included 8,022 study participants who were randomized into one of two groups: 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).
Participants were followed for up to five years. During that time, only 88 AFib cases occurred in the intensive blood pressure lowering group while 118 cases occurred in the standard blood pressure lowering group. Researchers showed that the benefit of intensive blood pressure lowering on reducing the risk of AFib was similar in all groups of the participants regardless of sex, race, or levels of blood pressure.