High Blood Pressure Research

As part of its broader commitment to research on cardiovascular diseases, the NHLBI leads and supports research and programs on hypertension (high blood pressure). The NHLBI has funded several studies and programs to help develop new treatments for high blood pressure, many of which focus on women’s health, lifestyle interventions, and health disparities. Current studies aim to prevent pregnancy complications and improve blood pressure among people who are at high risk.

NHLBI research that really made a difference

  • The Chronic Hypertension and Pregnancy   (CHAP) trial found that pregnant women who took medicines for mild chronic hypertension had fewer adverse pregnancy outcomes than the adults who did not. This included a lower chance of having a preterm birth or preeclampsia. In addition, the medicines did not impair fetal growth. The findings led to a practice advisory in 2022. See Treating chronic hypertension in early pregnancy benefits parents, babies to learn more.
  • The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Sodium Trial showed that lowering sodium as part of a healthy eating plan significantly lowers blood pressure for people with high blood pressure. Researchers saw the greatest change when lowering sodium was combined with eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fat.
  • The NHLBI’s Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT) study found that treating to a lower systolic blood pressure target — less than 120 mm Hg — helped lower deaths from heart attack and stroke, particularly among older people who have high blood pressure. These findings informed the latest high blood pressure guidelines in 2017. A follow-up study called SPRINTMIND found that treating to this lower blood pressure target also reduced mild cognitive impairment, a condition that can lead to dementia.
  • The NHLBI Antihypertensive and Lipid-Lowering Treatment to Prevent Heart Attack Trial (ALLHAT) was the largest hypertension clinical trial ever conducted, involving more than 600 clinics and 42,000 participants. The study compared the effectiveness of three commonly used blood pressure-lowering medicines (a calcium channel blocker, amlodipine; an ACE-inhibitor, lisinopril; and an alpha-receptor blocker, doxazosin) with a diuretic, chlorthalidone. The trial concluded that the diuretic worked better than the other medicines to manage high blood pressure and prevent stroke, as well as some types of heart disease, especially heart failure.

Current research funded by the NHLBI

Our Division of Cardiovascular Sciences and its Vascular Biology and Hypertension Branch oversee much of the research we fund on the regulation of blood pressure. 

Current research on the treatment of high blood pressure

NHLBI-supported research has led to creating and updating blood pressure treatments that have helped people around the world. High blood pressure affects millions of U.S. adults. We continue to support work on new treatments and also new approaches that tailor the right treatment to the right patient.

Find more NHLBI-funded studies on the high blood pressure treatment at NIH RePORTER.

Current research on women’s health and high blood pressure

NHLBI-supported research has helped reveal how pregnancy complications, including high blood pressure, affect the long-term health of women and their children.

  • One study found that women who have a preterm birth have a greater chance of later developing high blood pressure.
  • The NHLBI continues to fund the nuMoM2b Heart Health Study, which helps scientists understand how cardiovascular disease starts and develops in women. Researchers, funded by the NHLBI and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, found that women who developed complications during their first pregnancy were more likely to have had higher levels of blood sugar, blood pressure, and inflammation during their first trimester than women who did not develop complications. They are also more likely to develop chronic hypertension within 7 years after delivery. The study is also looking at the links between pregnancy, sleep health, and cardiovascular health.
  • The NHLBI’s CHAP Maternal Follow-up Study is examining the impact of treatment for preeclampsia and high blood pressure during pregnancy on a woman’s future chance for developing cardiovascular disease. The results will help identify the best ways to improve the health of women younger than age 40 who have mild, long-term high blood pressure.

Find more NHLBI-funded studies on women’s health and high blood pressure at NIH RePORTER. 

Current research on health disparities and high blood pressure

Black adults in the United States have a higher prevalence of high blood pressure than other racial and ethnic groups. The NHLBI supports research to understand and reduce high blood pressure disparities, as part of our broader commitment to addressing health disparities and inequities.

Other studies and research areas we fund to understand and lower the impacts of health disparities are listed below:

  • Our RURAL: Risk Underlying Rural Areas Longitudinal Cohort Study reaches 4,000 young and middle-aged men and women from different racial and ethnic groups living in poor rural counties in four southern states. The goal of the study is to understand what causes the high rates of heart and lung disease in these regions and how to lower those rates and improve prevention efforts.
  • Co-funded by the NHLBI and the NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health, the Maternal Health Community Implementation Program (MH-CIP) supports community-engaged implementation research, working with affected communities to improve heart, lung, blood, and sleep health before, during, and after pregnancy. MH-CIP focuses on bringing effective maternal health interventions — including projects related to hypertension — into communities severely impacted by maternal health disparities.
  • An NHLBI-funded study aims to improve implementation of the SPRINT findings in underserved populations. The study puts into practice a plan for blood pressure treatment at 30 clinics that serve people with little or no income in southeast Louisiana. The study’s findings will help lower barriers to blood pressure treatment faced by people who experience poverty.

Find more NHLBI-funded studies on high blood pressure and health disparities at NIH RePORTER. 

High blood pressure research labs at the NHLBI

The NHLBI Division of Intramural Research and its Cardiovascular Branch conduct research on diseases that affect the heart and blood vessels, including high blood pressure. Other Division of Intramural Research groups, such as the Center for Molecular Medicine and Systems Biology Center, perform research on heart and vascular diseases.

Related programs

Related high blood pressure programs

       Read more about the DECIPHeR program.

  • In 2019, the NHLBI convened the HIV-associated Comorbidities, Co-infections & Complications Workshop, which led to strategies that support more research into the diseases, infections, and complications related to HIV. People with HIV have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure, even if they actively manage HIV infection with medicine.

Explore more NHLBI research on high blood pressure

The sections above provide you with the highlights of NHLBI-supported research on high blood pressure. You can explore the full list of NHLBI-funded studies on the NIH RePORTER.

To find more studies:

  • Type your search words into the Quick Search box and press enter. 
  • Check Active Projects if you want current research.
  • Select the Agencies arrow, then the NIH arrow, then check NHLBI.

If you want to sort the projects by budget size from the biggest to the smallest click on the FY Total Cost by IC column heading.

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