Risk: benefit of treating high blood pressure in older adults

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Older people (those aged 65 years or over) comprise over 15% of the UK‘s population and this cohort is growing. Whilst at greatest risk from systemic arterial hypertension (hypertension), its resultant end organ damage and clinically significant cardiovascular disease, this group was initially neglected in clinical trials and thereby denied treatment, with the lack of evidence cited as justification. However since the 1960s, when the first landmark trials in severe diastolic hypertension were published, there has been a progressive attempt to understand the pathophysiology of hypertension and to expand the evidence base for treatment in older adults. In contrast to the participants of the very first randomized trials who had a mean age of 51 years, the recent Hypertension in the Very Elderly Trial demonstrated significant mortality and morbidity benefits from the treatment of both mixed systolic and diastolic hypertension, as well as isolated systolic hypertension in octogenarians. This review highlights the progressive evidence base behind the relative risks and benefits of treating hypertension in older adults.

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