Blood pressure in the elderly gradually begins to decrease about 14 years before death, a new study warns. The study was published in the journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine.
Researchers from UConn Health and the University of Exeter Medical School in the UK sifted through the electronic medical records of over 46 thousand British citizens who had died at the age of 60 or older. The data included people who were healthy as well as people who had heart disease and dementia.
They found that blood pressure decline was prevalent in patients with dementia, heart disease, late-in-life weight loss and those who had high blood pressure from the beginning. However, it was found that declines occurred in healthy people also.
“Our work highlights the importance of conducting research evaluating older patients like those seen in physician practices everywhere,” said George Kuchel, one of the authors of the study and director of the University of Connecticut Center on Aging at UConn Health.
According to Kuchel, the findings should prompt doctors and researchers alike to consider the importance of blood pressure decline in the elderly. Doctors know that blood pressure in an average person rises from childhood to middle age. However, normal blood pressure in older people is less certain.
Several studies theorized that blood pressure drops in the elderly due to hypertension treatment. This notion was later debunked when they noticed people without hypertension diagnoses experiencing blood pressure declines.
Kuchel also emphasized that he does not condone treating hypertension in late life or that those diagnosed with hypertension should stop taking their medications.
Kuchel states further research is required to successfully pinpoint the cause of these drops in blood pressure.
“Observational studies such as ours need to be followed by rigorous clinical trials in order to guide clinical care guidelines,” said Kuchel.
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