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High blood pressure not often treated in elderly

Three out of four Americans aged 80 or older have high blood pressure but most do not get adequate treatment, exposing them to a risk of heart attack or stroke, researchers said.
/ Source: Reuters

Three out of four Americans aged 80 or older have high blood pressure but most do not get adequate treatment, exposing them to a risk of heart attack or stroke, researchers said Tuesday.

“Many more men and women are now living healthy and active lives into their 80s and 90s. As clinicians, we should not loosen our management of high blood pressure just because a patient has had the good fortune to reach an older age,” said Dr. Daniel Levy, co-author of a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“For these patients, managing high blood pressure may make the difference between living many more healthy years, or spending those years recovering from a debilitating stroke or heart attack,” said Levy, who is the director of the Framingham Heart Study in Framingham, Massachusetts.

The researchers tracked participants from the earliest phase of the study that began in 1948 and their offspring who enrolled two decades later.

They found 74 percent of people aged 80 and older had high blood pressure, compared with 63 percent of those aged 60 to 79 and 27 percent of those younger than 60. Yet less than two-thirds of the people in the two older age groups received treatment for their conditions.

Hypertension is defined as systolic blood pressure of at least 140 mm Hg and diastolic pressure of at least 90 mm Hg. Normal is less than 120 mm Hg and 80 mm Hg.

Federal guidelines suggest treating hypertensive patients with two or more drugs, and one should be a diuretic.

But the study found only one-quarter of the women and about one-third of the men being treated for hypertension were properly treated with drugs.