In the Sept. 25 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, an international team of researchers report that patients over age 55 who took a drug called losartan had a significantly lower combined rate of cardiovascular death, stroke and heart attack than similar patients taking an older drug called atenolol.
The results are from a substudy of the Losartan Intervention for Endpoint Reduction in Hypertension, or LIFE, study, co-led by physicians from the University of Michigan.
All 1,326 men and women in the study had isolated systolic hypertension, or ISH, a form of high blood pressure in which the "top number" in the reading is too high, but the bottom number is normal. The pumping chambers of the patients' hearts were also enlarged, a condition called left ventricular hypertrophy caused by hypertension.
ISH is the most common form of high blood pressure in middle-aged people and the elderly, but is much less likely to be controlled by medications. One in four Americans, about 50 million people, have some form of hypertension, many with no symptoms. Left uncontrolled, high blood pressure can damage the heart, kidneys and blood vessels, and lead to stroke, heart attack and heart failure.
In the study, the combined rate of cardiovascular death, stroke and heart attack in patients taking losartan was 25 percent lower than the risk for those taking atenolol. The rate of cardiovascular-related deaths was 46 percent lower for losartan patients, their rate of stroke was 40 percent lower, and their overall death rate was 28 percent lower. They also had a lower rate of new diabetes diagnosis during the study. Heart attack rates were similar between the two groups.