Epidemiology of hypertension in the elderly.


Morgenstern N, Byyny RL.




Drugs Aging


Epidemiological studies confirm that hypertension, particularly systolic hypertension, is a major cardiovascular and cerebrovascular risk factor in the elderly. Clinical trials convincingly demonstrate the benefits of treating both diastolic hypertension in persons up to age 80 years, and isolated systolic hypertension in persons over age 60. The European Working Party on Hypertension in the Elderly (EWPHE) trial showed that reducing elevated blood pressure resulted in a 27% reduction in overall cardiovascular mortality, as well as significant reductions in severe congestive heart failure, strokes and deaths from myocardial infarction. The Systolic Hypertension in the Elderly Program (SHEP) also reported a 36% reduction in the incidence of stroke and decreases in cardiovascular events, including myocardial infarctions, when hypertension was treated. Additional EWPHE data suggest that the optimal level of systolic blood pressure control is between 146 and 158mm Hg, while patients in the SHEP trial with isolated systolic hypertension derived benefits at an average treated systolic blood pressure of 143mm Hg. Elderly study populations comply well with antihypertensive treatment, and blood pressure can be safely lowered with simple drug regimens. Nonpharmacological treatment is recommended for initial treatment of mild diastolic hypertension and isolated systolic hypertension, and as adjuvant treatment with medication. Since all antihypertensive agents can lower blood pressure in the elderly, therapy should be chosen based on its potential for side effects, drug interactions and effects on concomitant disease states.