High blood pressure (hypertension) is the single biggest killer in the world-and yet doctors are getting it wrong when treating it, a ground-breaking new study claims.
Doctors are taught to always bring down a high blood pressure reading, but researchers believe the approach is too simplistic, too expensive and isn't always a life-saver.
More lives could be saved, and at less expense, if doctors factored in other risks, such as age and diabetes, say researchers at the George Institute for Global Health, supported by the Oxford Martin School.
The UK alone spends lb12 billion a year on controlling heart disease and high blood pressure (hypertension), but the whole system needs a radical overhaul. Many with hypertension aren't helped by antihypertensive drugs, and yet, paradoxically, many others with normal levels could be.
Only a few countries, including New Zealand, have adopted the risk-based approach to blood pressure; most, including the UK and the USA, take an overly simplistic approach of always lowering high blood pressure, and without considering other risk factors, they say.
"What this research shows is that it's not just a patient's blood pressure that matters when deciding who to treat. You can treat less people but prevent more strokes and heart attacks," says lead researcher Prof Bruce Neal.
(Source: The Lancet, 2014; 384: 591-8)