Treating hypertension in the very elderly

Document Type


Date of Original Version



OBJECTIVE: To review the evidence for strict blood pressure (BP) management in the very elderly, defined as patients aged 80 years and older. DATA SOURCES: A literature search was performed using PubMed (1950 through November 2010) for the MeSH terms hypertension and elderly; subtermsof identified MeSH terms (ie, explosion) for the elderly were also searched. A broader search was conducted of PubMed articles published in the past 4 years. Searches were conducted for additional primary literature referenced in identified articles; an updated Cochrane Database review was also performed. STUDY SELECTION AND DATA EXTRACTION: All identified studies that specifically included very elderly patients and BP were reviewed. DATA SYNTHESIS: The BP goal established in the Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure (JNC 7) is less than 140/90 mm Hg, regardless of age, unless a compelling indication exists. Although evidence suggests that lowering BP will lower the risk of stroke, lower BP in the very elderly may result in higher mortality. Many physicians are reluctant to treat BP in accordance with the JNC 7 goal in very elderly patients for a variety of reasons, including concerns about fall risk, lack of benefit in mortality reduction, and concerns about drug interactions and adverse effects. Results from a randomized controlled trial and meta-analysis have demonstrated reductions in stroke, heart failure, and cardiovascular events in the very elderly. The American College of Cardiology Foundation/American Heart Association recently published guidelines for elderly patients that suggest treating the very elderly carefully and with different BP goals than previously recommended. CONCLUSIONS: Optimal management of hypertension in the very elderly remains a concern. Few studies have evaluated hypertension in this population, and studies that included patients over 80 enrolled too few to draw conclusions. Although the HYVET (Hypertension in the Very Elderly Trial) study did have adequate power to evaluate the very elderly, because this study was stopped early because of significant findings in mortality, unanswered questions remain regarding optimal BP targets.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Annals of Pharmacotherapy