Since the realization that hypertension was a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, methods of lowering elevated blood pressure have been developed. The main goal of antihypertensive treatment is to prevent or to arrest cardiovascular damage. Based on the successes and failures encountered for over 30 years or more of therapeutic experience in hypertension, several treatment goals have been established. Previously, it was claimed that the advantages of lowering blood pressure were not dependent on the antihypertensive drug used. Now, this is being questioned. For instance, fatigue is often observed in hypertensive patients treated with drugs that reduce cardiac output and limit peripheral blood flow. Is it therefore more rational to reduce blood pressure by returning increased vascular resistance to normal? Since antihypertensive therapy is life-long, we are becoming increasingly aware of the long-term effects (both beneficial and adverse) of antihypertensive drugs. The metabolic changes caused by current antihypertensive drugs are now being studied in detail. The potassium-depleting action of diuretics is well-known, and the significance of such an effect is being re-examined. The effects of various antihypertensive agents on serum lipids are relatively recent observations, the clinical importance of which is worthy of wider discussion and investigation. The abolition or reduction of all vascular complications of hypertension is the goal for which current antihypertensive treatment has most often failed. Whereas prevention of cerebrovascular accidents, renal failure, and heart failure has indeed been successfully achieved, coronary complications (the most frequent adjunct of hypertension) have been little influenced by antihypertensive therapy. Is this because coronary heart disease may be simply an associated disease, rather than a consequence of hypertension? Or is this because the beneficial action of the most widely used antihypertensive drugs on vascular disease is largely counteracted by unfavorable metabolic effects? These and similar questions have to be debated and resolved before we can define treatment goals more precisely and develop the most appropriate means to achieve them.
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