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Drugs Aging. 2004;21(6):377-93.

Effect of antihypertensive agents on quality of life in the elderly.

Author information

1
Department of Internal Medicine and Therapeutics, Clinica Medica II, IRCCS Policlinico S. Matteo, University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy. r.fogari@smatteo.pv.it

Abstract

Management of hypertension in the elderly should take into account, in particular, the possible negative impact of antihypertensive drugs on the patient's quality of life, the deterioration of which may result in a loss of independence and reduced treatment compliance. Quality of life is recognised as a multifactorial variable and can be subdivided into different domains (symptomatic well-being, emotional, physical, work-social, cognitive and life satisfaction), which are generally explored by means of specific questionnaires or scales. When evaluating elderly patients with hypertension, it is necessary to pay particular attention to specific domains such as symptomatic well-being, cognitive function, activity and sexual function, which have already been diminished by the age itself and the disease. The results of some large trials that specifically evaluated the quality of life effects of long-term therapy of hypertension in older people (Medical Research Council's [MRC] Trial of Hypertension in Older Adults, Systolic Hypertension in the Elderly Program [SHEP], Systolic Hypertension in Europe [Syst-Eur], Study on COgnition and Prognosis in the Elderly [SCOPE]) have shown that antihypertensive treatment as a whole either had no negative impact on quality of life, or even produced some improvement. The question whether some classes of antihypertensive agents are more beneficial or harmful than others in terms of quality-of-life effects remains largely unanswered. Results from long-term trials suggest that treatment with diuretics is not associated with adverse effects on quality of life. Nevertheless, chlortalidone and other diuretics have been more often associated with sexual dysfunction in men, including decreased libido, erectile dysfunction and difficult ejaculation, than other drug classes. Nonselective lipophilic beta-adrenoceptor antagonists, such as propranolol, have been reported to exert some negative effect on quality of life and have been associated with depression, impairment of memory function and adverse effects such as erectile problems. A less unfavourable impact has been described with beta(1)-adrenoceptor antagonists and those with vasodilating properties. Calcium channel antagonists have generally been associated with a positive effect on quality of life, although some trials have shown high rates of adverse effects and withdrawals, particularly with first-generation dihydropyridines. Concern has also been raised about the potential for adverse cognitive effects associated with the use of calcium channel antagonists, but studies on this topic are not univocal. ACE inhibitors have usually been reported to exert favourable effects on quality of life. These drugs seem to be effective in maintaining, or even improving, cognitive function through mechanisms other than blood pressure control. In addition, a number of studies reported favourable impact of ACE inhibitors on sexual function. Angiotensin II receptor antagonists have been associated with good tolerability and low withdrawal rate. They have been demonstrated not to interfere with or even improve cognitive function as well as sexual performance. Although no class of antihypertensive agents presents a clearly superior effect over the others in terms of quality of life, the current impression is that ACE inhibitors and angiotensin II receptor antagonists may offer some advantage, at least in regard to effects on cognitive function and sexual activity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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