Controlling Your Blood Pressure is a Life Long Job

Preliminary results from the Hypertension in the Very Elderly Trial (HYVET) indicate that people in their 80s were at lower risk of dying when they were treated with anti-hypertensive medication.

“High blood pressure medication has been known to reduce the rate of stroke, but the HYVET study suggests that both incidence of stroke and survival rate were improved.  These data, although, not yet published, confirm our belief that high blood pressure should be treated regardless of age,” says Gary Francis, MD, head of the Section of Clinical Cardiology at Cleveland Clinic and editor-in-chief of Heart Advisor.

Blood pressure control is critical because hypertension is a major risk factor for heart failure and stroke.  It can also lead to kidney dysfunction and retinopathy (blood vessel damage that can cause blindness).

If you are still in your middle years and not quite elderly, you may want to discuss some of the possible side effects that your elderly parents or family members are having with medications because they metabolize them differently than younger people.  Side effects may include a dry cough, edema, constipation, and a decrease in insulin sensitivity. Medications may also cause dizziness which is a concern since the elderly are more prone to falls in the first place.

To accommodate some of these side effects elderly patients are often treated with lower dosage which is then increased over time.  Just like the rest of us, they are encouraged to lower their blood pressure by losing weight, exercising, and avoiding salt.

According to a recent report published in the August 14 Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC), patients with uncomplicated hypertension should be treated with medications such as diuretics. Hypertensive patients who have had heart attacks and congestive heart failure may find that beta blockers work better for their hypertension and over-all health.

It is probably a good idea to ask your doctor about your (or your elderly parent) drug options for treating high blood pressure including diuretics, calcium channel blockers and ACE inhibitors. And if you are taking a beta blocker, be sure to report all the side effects.

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