Antihypertensive therapy has been used for almost 35 years to reduce blood pressure and prevent morbidity and mortality related to the hypertensive state. Malignant, severe, and moderate hypertension have all been shown to be worthy of drug treatment, but controversy remains as to the degree of benefit that is achievable by treating milder hypertension. A variety of clinical trials have demonstrated that antihypertensive therapy reduces the incidence of stroke, congestive heart failure, and left ventricular hypertrophy and the progression in severity of hypertension. The benefits with respect to prevention of coronary heart disease (CHD) have been much less impressive. Thiazide diuretics have been the base therapy for the bulk of the hypertensive subjects studied to date who have not demonstrated reduced incidence of CHD. Therapy with beta-blockers has the potential for reducing CHD, but an analysis of four studies finds only two with positive results. On the other hand, since that study found reduced total mortality as well as CHD compared with thiazide diuretic, its findings cannot be ignored. Other questions deserving further investigation include how other antihypertensive therapies compare with respect to the risk reduction found with thiazide diuretics and beta-blockers, the optimal posttreatment blood pressure, whether persons with mild hypertension benefit from therapy, whether women should be treated differently, and whether atherosclerosis may be affected by specific antihypertensive therapies.
- Copyright © 1991 by American Heart Association