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J Hypertens. 2009 Feb;27(2):224-30. doi: 10.1097/HJH.0b013e3283193e6e.

Health behaviour patterns in relation to hypertension: the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing.

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  • 1Psychobiology Group, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, UK.



Clinical guidelines emphasize that hypertensive individuals should be encouraged to maintain healthy lifestyles with respect to smoking, physical activity, alcohol consumption and diet. We assessed health behaviours in a large sample of older hypertensive individuals, and tested whether medication for hypertension leads to compensatory increases in cardiovascular risk behaviours.


Analysis of wave 1 of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, involving 5231 men and 6292 women aged at least 50 years. We analysed the prevalence of smoking, heavy drinking, sedentary behaviour and vigorous physical activity in relation to self-reported hypertension, controlling for age, sex, socioeconomic status, comorbidity (coronary heart disease, diabetes, arthritis), impairments of mobility, activities of daily living and depression.


The prevalence of self-reported hypertension was 37.8%, and 77% of hypertensive participants were prescribed medication. Hypertensive participants were less likely to smoke than normotensive ones (14.8 vs. 19.7%), with reduced odds of smoking [odds ratio (OR) 0.72, 95% confidence intervals (CI) 0.56-0.83] after adjusting for covariates. Hypertensive individuals were more likely to be heavy drinkers (OR 1.34, CI 1.10-1.62), to be sedentary (OR 1.14, CI 1.02-1.27), and not engage in vigorous physical activity (OR 0.84, CI 0.75-0.94). There was no evidence for risk compensation in medicated hypertensive individuals compared with unmedicated ones.


Smoking rates are low among hypertensive individuals, but the patterns of alcohol consumption and physical activity are suboptimal. Compensatory increases in risky behaviours appear not to be present in medicated individuals. There is considerable scope for advice and counselling to older hypertensive individuals to improve patterns of health behaviour.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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