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Am J Geriatr Cardiol. 2002 Jul-Aug;11(4):223-32.

High blood pressure in the geriatric population: treatment considerations.

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Section of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, Lousiana State University Health Services Center, New Orleans, LA 70112, USA.


Increases in blood pressure (BP), particularly systolic BP, have traditionally been considered to be a normal or "physiologic" component of the aging process. However, it is now clear that elevated BP, particularly systolic BP, represents a pathophysiologic manifestation of altered cardiovascular physiology and structure, ultimately manifesting as increased cardiovascular morbidity and mortality (myocardial infarction, stroke, and total cardiovascular death rates). More than one half of the population aged 65 or older have hypertension, defined as BP > or = 140/90 mm Hg. Framingham data indicate that the risk of coronary heart disease increases with lower diastolic BP at any level of systolic BP > or = 120 mm Hg, thus further stressing the importance of pressure-induced arterial vascular compliance changes and introducing pulse pressure as an important predictor of cardiovascular risk. Geriatric hypertension is generally of a salt-sensitive nature and often associated with impaired baroreflex function. Reduction in sodium intake is important and effective in older patients, and should be initiated before or together with drug therapy. Encouraging data from clinical trials now strongly support the aggressive anti-hypertensive treatment of elderly patients. A recent meta-analysis of eight outcome trials evaluating the risks of treated and untreated isolated systolic hypertension has demonstrated a 30% reduction in combined fatal and nonfatal stroke, a 26% reduction in fatal and nonfatal cardiovascular events, and a 13% reduction in total mortality. Those drugs effective in younger patients also appear effective in the elderly; low-dose thiazides (alone or in combination with potassium sparing agents), beta blockers, long-acting dihydropyridine calcium antagonists, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, and angiotensin receptor blockers all have demonstrated efficacy. In selecting an agent, it is important to consider comorbid disease states, and to recognize the potential of all nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, whether conventional or cyclooxygenase-2 specific, to increase BP or interfere with other antihypertensive agents. In general, the elderly should be treated to target BP levels identical to those suggested for younger patients, although a more gradual reduction to target, perhaps with an intermediate BP goal of < 160 mm Hg, may be advisable.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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