Reducing the Pressure for the Elderly

Experts issue new guidelines for treating high blood pressure in elderly people

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) High blood pressure is very common among the elderly in the United States. As the population grows older, it becomes more important for people to learn how to control their blood pressure. For this reason, experts have written new guidelines keeping blood pressure down.

Until recently, many doctors were afraid to treat high blood pressure in people over 80 years. Doctors were concerned that the treatments for high blood pressure would be harmful to the elderly.

However, a recent study showed that treating hypertension in people over 80 years of age reduced their risk of stroke, heart failure, cardiac death, and all other causes of death.

"Doctors, treat blood pressure in older patients."

According to Wilbert S. Aronow, M.D., clinical professor of medicine at New York Medical College and one of the chairs of the committee that issued the new guidelines, most elderly people do not have good control of their blood pressure.

Dr. Aronow explains that treating high blood pressure in the elderly reduces their risk of heart-related problems and death.

It is also cheaper than treating the heart problems that come from untreated high blood pressure.

The Study

In 2008, a study called the Hypertension in the Very Elderly Trial (HYVET) showed that treating high blood pressure in people over 80 years reduced their risks for many health problems. For example, treating high blood pressure in this elderly population led to:

  • A 30 percent reduced risk of stroke
  • A 23 percent reduced risk of cardiac death
  • A 64 percent reduced risk of heart failure
  • A 21 percent reduced risk of death from all causes

The HYVET study is what led experts from the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association to create these new guidelines. The recommendations include:

  • A target blood pressure of 140/90 mm Hg for people from 65 to 79 years of age
  • A target systolic blood pressure between 140 and 145 mm Hg in people 80 years of age and older
  • Doctors should choose medications based on how well they work; how patients tolerate them; whether patients have other conditions; and how much the drugs cost
  • When patients start taking drugs for high blood pressure, they should start at the lowest doses then build up for as long as they can tolerate it
  • Doctors should routinely measure patients' blood pressure
  • Doctors should encourage patients to make lifestyle changes, such as getting more exercise; eating less salt; quitting smoking; controlling their weight; and not drinking too much.
  • The cost of drugs should be discussed with patients, as drug prices are one of many reasons that people have poor blood pressure control 
Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 27, 2011
Last Updated:
April 30, 2011