Concomitant diseases in elderly hypertensives: the position of nicardipine

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Age-related cardiovascular changes Age-related changes in vascular structure and function may contribute to isolated systolic hypertension and target-organ damage. These include cardiac hypertrophy, systolic as well as diastolic dysfunction, congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiac arrhythmias, cerebrovascular diseases, peripheral vascular diseases and renal insufficiency. Potential advantages of calcium antagonists in the elderly Dihydropyridine calcium antagonists have been advocated as first choice agents for the treatment of hypertension in the elderly on the grounds that (1) they may be more active in lowering blood pressure because of the predominantly low renin status in elderly hypertensives, (2) they may be better tolerated because side effects related to the activation of the sympathetic system may be less frequent because of attenuation of baroflexes during ageing and (3) they may have beneficial effects on a variety of concomitant cardiovascular diseases which are frequently present in the elderly. These assumptions, however, are not always proven in clinical practice. Advantages of nicardipine Additional to its potent vasodilatator action, nicardipine has anti-ischemic effects in both the coronary and the cerebral circulation, including antiplatelet and hemorrheological effects, and protection at ther cellular level against calcium overload and ischemia. The results of a large number of studies in cerebrovascular insufficiency suggest that nicardipine, may favorably affect the cerebral circulation and may improve the patient's cognitive function. Nicardipine may decrease left ventricular mass by about 4-12% and may reduce both the frequency and the severity of arrhythmias. The anti-anginal effects of nicardipine are well established. The drug is also able to decrease the progression of new atherosclerotic lesions in coronary arteries and is consequently potentially beneficial in elderly hypertensives with coronary artery disease. Nicardipine has no clinically significant negative inotropic effect Nevertheless, in congestive heart failure, the use of calcium antagonists is usually not recommended because of the lack of clinical benefit and of possible harmful effects, including sympathetic and renin-angiotensin system stimulation. Although kidney protection may be provided by a strict and long-term control of blood pressure, the effects of nicardipine on long-term protection of renal function are not clear at present. Recent controversy concerning short-acting calcium antagonists Much-debated recent case-control studies suggest that hypertensive patients treated with short-acting calcium antagonists may have an increased incidence of myocardial infarction and possibly of cardiovascular and total mortality. However, only well designed prospective comparative trials can answer this question.

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