190. Guidelines: 2021 ESC Cardiovascular Prevention – Question #4 with Dr. Roger Blumenthal

The following question refers to Section 4.7 and figure 16 of the 2021 ESC CV Prevention Guidelines. The question is asked by CardioNerds Academy Intern Student Dr. Shivani Reddy, answered first by Fellow at Johns Hopkins Dr. Rick Ferraro, and then by expert faculty Dr. Roger Blumenthal.

Dr. Roger Blumenthal is professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins where he is Director of the Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease. He was instrumental in developing the 2018 ACC/AHA CV Prevention Guidelines. Dr. Blumenthal has also been an incredible mentor to CardioNerds from our earliest days.

The CardioNerds Decipher The Guidelines Series for the 2021 ESC CV Prevention Guidelines represents a collaboration with the ACC Prevention of CVD Section, the National Lipid Association, and Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association.

Ms. K.M. is a 40-year-old woman presenting to the outpatient clinic for a routine physical exam required for her employment as an airline stewardess. She states she has been in her usual good health but does experience occasional headaches and lightheadedness while in flight. On exam her BP was noted to be 170/90. The diagnosis of hypertension is confirmed during a subsequent clinic visit. What would be the most appropriate initial therapy recommendation(s) for Ms. K.M.?

A. Initiate single drug therapy with a beta-blocker.
B. Discuss and initiate lifestyle interventions
C. Initiate two-drug combination therapy with a thiazide-like diuretic, BB, CCB, or an ARB.
D. Both B and C 

The correct answer is D.

Both B (lifestyle interventions) and C (initial combination therapy) are appropriate at this time.

Lifestyle interventions are indicated for all patients with high-normal BP or hypertension because they can delay the need for drug treatment or complement the BP-lowering effect of drug treatment (Class 1). Moreover, most lifestyle interventions have health benefits beyond their effect on BP.

Single-drug therapy will rarely achieve optimal BP control. Therefore, initial antihypertensive therapy with a combination of two drugs, preferably as a single-pill combination, is recommended for the management of HTN (Class 1). The only exceptions would be patients with a baseline BP close to the recommended target, who might achieve that target with a single drug, or very old (>80 years) or frail patients who may better tolerate a gentler reduction of BP.

Five major classes of BP-lowering drug therapy have shown benefit in reducing CV events; angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs), beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers (CCBs), and thiazide or thiazide-like diuretics.

A combination of an ACE inhibitor or ARB with a CCB or thiazide/thiazide-like diuretic is the preferred initial therapy for most patients with hypertension (Class 1). For those in whom treatment requires escalation to three drugs, a combination of an ACE inhibitor or ARB with a CCB and a thiazide/thiazide-like diuretic should be used (Class 1).

Resistant hypertension is defined as BP being uncontrolled despite treatment with optimal or best-tolerated doses of three or more drugs including a diuretic, and confirmed by ABPM or HBPM. Spironolactone is the most effective drug for lowering BP in resistant hypertension when added to existing treatment; however, the risk of hyperkalaemia is increased in patients with CKD. When spironolactone is not tolerated, amiloride, alpha-blockers, beta-blockers, or centrally acting drugs, such as clonidine, have evidence supporting their use. Renal denervation and device-based therapy may be considered for specific cases.

Beta-blockers should be used when there is a specific indication (e.g. angina, post myocardial infarction, arrythmia, HFrEF, or as an alternative to an ACE inhibitor or ARB in women of child-bearing potential). Combinations of an ACE inhibitor and an ARB are not recommended because of no added benefit on outcomes and increased risk of harm (Class III).

The diagnosis and treatment of hypertension in women is similar to that in men, except for women of child-bearing potential or during pregnancy, because of potential adverse effects of some drugs on the fetus, especially in the first trimester. In addition, the effect of oral contraceptive pills on the risk of developing or worsening hypertension should be considered.

Main Takeaway:

Combination drug therapies are more effective in lowering BP than monotherapy. BP management in women is similar to men with the exception of child-bearing potential given potential teratogenicity of some agents.

Guideline Location:, Page 3288

Figure 16, pg. 3287

190. Guidelines: 2021 ESC Cardiovascular Prevention – Question #4 with Dr. Roger Blumenthal
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