The benefits of blood pressure lowering treatment for prevention of cardiovascular disease are well established. However, the extent to which these effects differ by baseline blood pressure, presence of comorbidities, or drug class is less clear. We therefore performed a systematic review and meta-analysis to clarify these differences.
For this systematic review and meta-analysis, we searched MEDLINE for large-scale blood pressure lowering trials, published between Jan 1, 1966, and July 7, 2015, and we searched the medical literature to identify trials up to Nov 9, 2015. All randomised controlled trials of blood pressure lowering treatment were eligible for inclusion if they included a minimum of 1000 patient-years of follow-up in each study arm. No trials were excluded because of presence of baseline comorbidities, and trials of antihypertensive drugs for indications other than hypertension were eligible. We extracted summary-level data about study characteristics and the outcomes of major cardiovascular disease events, coronary heart disease, stroke, heart failure, renal failure, and all-cause mortality. We used inverse variance weighted fixed-effects meta-analyses to pool the estimates.
We identified 123 studies with 613 815 participants for the tabular meta-analysis. Meta-regression analyses showed relative risk reductions proportional to the magnitude of the blood pressure reductions achieved. Every 10 mm Hg reduction in systolic blood pressure significantly reduced the risk of major cardiovascular disease events (relative risk [RR] 0·80, 95% CI 0·77–0·83), coronary heart disease (0·83, 0·78–0·88), stroke (0·73, 0·68–0·77), and heart failure (0·72, 0·67–0·78), which, in the populations studied, led to a significant 13% reduction in all-cause mortality (0·87, 0·84–0·91). However, the effect on renal failure was not significant (0·95, 0·84–1·07). Similar proportional risk reductions (per 10 mm Hg lower systolic blood pressure) were noted in trials with higher mean baseline systolic blood pressure and trials with lower mean baseline systolic blood pressure (all ptrend>0·05). There was no clear evidence that proportional risk reductions in major cardiovascular disease differed by baseline disease history, except for diabetes and chronic kidney disease, for which smaller, but significant, risk reductions were detected. β blockers were inferior to other drugs for the prevention of major cardiovascular disease events, stroke, and renal failure. Calcium channel blockers were superior to other drugs for the prevention of stroke. For the prevention of heart failure, calcium channel blockers were inferior and diuretics were superior to other drug classes. Risk of bias was judged to be low for 113 trials and unclear for 10 trials. Heterogeneity for outcomes was low to moderate; the I2 statistic for heterogeneity for major cardiovascular disease events was 41%, for coronary heart disease 25%, for stroke 26%, for heart failure 37%, for renal failure 28%, and for all-cause mortality 35%.
Blood pressure lowering significantly reduces vascular risk across various baseline blood pressure levels and comorbidities. Our results provide strong support for lowering blood pressure to systolic blood pressures less than 130 mm Hg and providing blood pressure lowering treatment to individuals with a history of cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, heart failure, and chronic kidney disease.
National Institute for Health Research and Oxford Martin School.