Benefits and risks of antihypertensive medications in the elderly

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Hypertension is highly prevalent in older age and accounts for a large proportion of cardiovascular (CV) morbidity and mortality worldwide. Isolated systolic hypertension is more common in the elderly than younger adults and associated with poor outcomes such as cerebrovascular disease and acute coronary events. International guidelines are inconsistent in providing recommendations on optimal blood pressure targets in hypertensive elderly patients as a result of the limited evidence in this population. Evidence from clinical trials supports the use of antihypertensive drugs in hypertensive elderly patients due to benefits in reducing CV disease and mortality. However, elderly participants in these trials may not be typical of elderly patients seen in routine clinical practice, and the potential risks associated with use of antihypertensive drugs in the elderly are not as well studied as younger participants. Therefore, the purpose of this review was to provide a comprehensive summary of the benefits and risks of the use of antihypertensive drugs in elderly patients (aged ≥65 years), highlighting landmark clinical trials and observational studies. We will focus on specific outcomes relating to the benefits and risks of these medications in hypertensive elderly patients, such as CV disease, cognitive decline, dementia, orthostatic hypotension, falls, fractures, cancer and diabetes, in order to provide an update of the most relevant and current evidence to help inform clinical decision-making.

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