Individuals aged 55 and above should be given blood pressure lowering drugs- even if their reading is normal, a London-based expert says.
Epidemiology expert Professor Malcolm Law's research found the medication cut the risk of heart attacks and strokes regardless of a person's blood pressure.
Drugs such as beta blockers and ACE inhibitors reduce the chance of heart attacks by around a quarter and stroke by around a third, the British Medical Journal reports.
To reach the conclusion, research team from the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine at Barts and The London School of Medicine analysed the findings of 147 blood pressure trials published between 1966 and 2007, involving 464,000 people.
The results show that using any one of the main classes of blood pressure lowering drugs at standard dose reduced fatal and non-fatal heart attacks by about a quarter and stroke by about a third. Heart failure was also reduced by about a quarter.
The reductions in disease were similar in people with and without clinical cardiovascular disease and regardless of blood pressure before treatment.
All the classes of blood pressure lowering drugs had a similar effect for a given reduction in blood pressure that was accurately predicted from epidemiological studies of blood pressure and subsequent disease with two exceptions-an extra protective effect of beta-blockers given shortly after a heart attack and a small additional effect of calcium channel blockers in preventing stroke.
Professor Malcolm Law said "The results show that blood pressure lowering drugs should be offered to anyone at sufficient risk to benefit from treatment, whatever their reason for being at risk."
However, the exact age range for being most at risk of heart attack and stroke could not be defined precisely from this study, which only looked at randomised trials in people aged 60.