SAN FRANCISCO – The benefit of lowering blood pressure exceeded the potential for harm, even among the most frail elderly, in SPRINT, but it’s important to remember who was excluded from the trial when using the findings in the clinic, according to Mark Supiano, MD.
SPRINT (Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial) excluded people with histories of stroke, diabetes, heart failure, and chronic kidney disease with a markedly reduced glomerular filtration rate. People living in nursing homes, assisted living centers, and those with prevalent dementia were also excluded, as were individuals with a standing systolic pressure below 110 mm Hg ().
Even with those exclusions, however, the 2,636 patients in SPRINT who were 75 years and older “were not a super healthy group of older people,” Dr. Supiano said at the joint scientific sessions of the American Heart Association Council on Hypertension, AHA Council on Kidney in Cardiovascular Disease, and American Society of Hypertension.
They were at high risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD), with a median 10-year Framingham risk score of almost 25%. More than a quarter had gait speeds below 0.8 m/sec, and almost a third were classified as frail. Many had mild cognitive impairment at baseline.
In the United States, Dr. Supiano and his colleagues estimate that there are almost 6 million similar people 75 years or older with hypertension who would likely achieve the same benefits from hypertension control as elderly subjects in the trial. “As a geriatrician, there are very few things that I can offer patients 75 years and older that will have a profound improvement in their overall mortality.” Blood pressure control is one of them, said Dr. Supiano, chief of geriatrics at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, and a SPRINT investigator.
In SPRINT, intensive treatment to systolic pressure below 120 mm Hg showed greater benefit for patients 75 years and older than it did for younger patients, even among the frail, with a 34% reduction in fatal and nonfatal CVD events versus patients treated to below 140 mm Hg, and a 33% lower rate of death from any cause.
It should be no surprise that older patients had greater benefit from tighter control, because elderly patients have “a greater CVD risk. There’s more bang for the buck” with blood pressure lowering in an older population. “Overall, benefits exceed the potential for harm, even among the frailest older patients,” Dr. Supiano said.
“A systemic target of less than 140 mm Hg is, I believe, appropriate for most healthy people age 60 and older. A benefit-based systemic target of less than 120 mm Hg may be appropriate for those at higher CVD risk.” Among patients 60-75 years old, that would include those with a Framingham score above 15%. Among patients older than age 75 with an elevated CVD risk, treatment to below 120 mm Hg makes sense if it aligns with patient’s goals of care, Dr. Supiano said.
The 120–mm Hg target in SPRINT was associated with a greater incidence of some transient side effects in the elderly, including hypotension, syncope, acute kidney injury, and electrolyte imbalance, but not a higher risk of serious adverse events or injurious falls.
There were concerns raised at the joint sessions about the effect of blood pressure lowering on the cognitive function of older people. Dr. Supiano noted that the cognitive outcomes in SPRINT, as well as outcomes in patients with chronic kidney disease, have not yet been released, but are expected soon.
Dr. Supiano had no relevant disclosures.