(HealthDay News) — Engaging Americans at high risk for cardiovascular disease in aggressive efforts to lower their systolic blood pressure could save more than 100,000 lives a year, according to a study presented at the American Heart Association’s Council on Hypertension 2016 Scientific Sessions, held from Sept. 14 to 17 in Orlando, Fla.

Holly Kramer, MD, MPH, an associate professor of public health sciences and medicine at Loyola Medical Center in Maywood, Ill., and colleagues utilized 1999 to 2006 health data from the Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT) which was released in 2015. The SPRINT trial included adults age 50 years and older with SBP of 130 to 180 mm Hg, all with high cardiovascular disease risk.

Based on an annual death rate of 2.2% for that population, they predicted that approximately 107,000 deaths could be prevented each year through intensive systolic blood pressure lowering (to less than 120 mm Hg). Of the 18 million participants studied, 8.9 million had systolic readings at the higher end of the spectrum — 145 mm Hg or greater. And their annual death rate was 2.5%. But with intensive control, researchers projected that 61,000 deaths would be avoided each year.

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“The SPRINT clinical trial clearly showed that intensive systolic blood pressure lowering lowers risk of death from all causes and will save lives among adults aged 50 years and older,” Kramer said in a news release from the American Heart Association.

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1. Lowering blood pressure’s top number could prevent 100,000-plus deaths a year [press release]. American Heart Association; September 15, 2016.