Aiming lower saves more lives when it comes to controlling high blood pressure, said a major new study that could spur doctors to more aggressively treat patients older than 50.

Patients who got their blood pressure well below the level currently recommended significantly cut their risk of heart disease and death, the National Institutes of Health said. The benefit was strong enough that NIH stopped the study about a year early. Normal blood pressure is less than a measurement of 120 over 80. High blood pressure is diagnosed once that measurement reaches, or passes, 140 over 90.

“This study provides potentially lifesaving information,” said Dr. Gary Gibbons, director of NIH’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Doctors have long debated how low blood-pressure patients need to go, especially as they get older. The new results are preliminary, and researchers stressed that they shouldn’t alter patient care just yet. But if the full results pan out, they eventually could influence treatment guidelines.

 

Vaccinations have broad benefits

The vaccination of children from 1994 to 2013 will prevent 732,000 early deaths in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The agency said 90 percent of children younger than 3 were vaccinated against polio, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B and chickenpox in 2014. But fewer than 90 percent received DTaP — the vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis — or the vaccines against Haemophilus influenzae Type B, pneumococcal disease, hepatitis A and rotavirus.

About 71 percent of children received the combined vaccine series — shots containing more than one vaccine, including the DTaP (at least four doses); polio (at least three doses); measles, mumps and rubella (at least one); Haemophilus influenzae Type B (at least three or four); hepatitis B (at least three); chickenpox (at least one); and pneumococcus (at least four doses).

Only 0.7 percent of children received no vaccines at all.

In addition to preventing more than three-quarters of a million deaths, vaccination has prevented an estimated 322 million illnesses and 21,000 hospitalizations over the past two decades. The CDC estimates that this has produced a net savings of $1.38 trillion in health care costs.

 

Diabetes levels start to plateau

About half of all Americans have either diabetes or pre-diabetes, a report said. And experts in the field say that’s good news.

That’s because the study finds that after two decades of linear growth, the prevalence of diabetes in the United States has finally started to plateau. In a paper published in JAMA, the authors write that their findings are consistent with other studies that show the percentage of people with diagnosed diabetes remained steady from 2008 to 2012.

“Although obesity and Type 2 diabetes remain major clinical and public health problems in the United States, the current data provide a glimmer of hope,” wrote William Herman and Amy Rothberg of the University of Michigan in an article accompanying the paper.

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