Do angiotensin II antagonists provide benefits beyond blood pressure reduction?

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Hypertension is a powerful risk factor for cardiovascular (CV) morbidity and mortality; therefore, blood pressure (BP) lowering plays a central role in reducing the cardiovascular complications of hypertension, including stroke. Recent outcomes studies—Losartan Intervention For Endpoint reduction in hypertension, Reduction of Endpoints in Non-insulin-dependent Diabetes Mellitus with the Angiotensin II Antagonist Losartan, and the Irbesartan Type 2 Diabetic Nephropathy Trial—suggest that some angiotensin II antagonists are associated with CV and renal effects beyond their ability to lower BP in patients with hypertension or diabetic nephropathy and may play a role in the prevention of new-onset type 2 diabetes. Angiotensin II antagonists are associated with a wide variety of vascular, cardiac, and renal effects, as well as molecule-specific effects independent of those induced by the angiotensin-l receptor. These actions may offer a mechanistic explanation for the outcome benefits observed in patients with hypertension or diabetic nephropathy. Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and calcium-channel blockers may also have effects that are not completely explained by differences in the antihypertensive response to these agents, but the evidence is less robust. Collectively, these findings suggest that management of patients with hypertension, with or without diabetes or renal disease, should no longer be viewed as simply a matter of correcting elevated BP. Antihypertensive agents that possess CV benefits beyond their BP-reducing effects should be used to prevent the development of end-organ damage.

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