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07.06.2019 | Therapy in Practice | Ausgabe 8/2019

Drugs & Aging 8/2019

Going Beyond the Guidelines in Individualising the Use of Antihypertensive Drugs in Older Patients

Drugs & Aging > Ausgabe 8/2019
Ian A. Scott, Sarah N. Hilmer, David G. Le Couteur


Hypertension is commonly diagnosed in older patients, with increasing cardiovascular (CV) risk as systolic blood pressure (BP) increases. Maximising CV risk reduction must be reconciled with minimising the risk of treatment-related harms and burden, especially among frail, multi-morbid and older old patients who have been excluded from most randomised trials. Contemporary clinical guidelines, based on such trials, differ in their recommendations as to threshold levels warranting treatment with antihypertensive drugs (AHDs) and target levels that should be achieved. In optimising AHD prescribing in older patients, we propose the following decision framework: decide therapeutic goals in accordance with patient characteristics and preferences; estimate absolute CV risk; measure and profile BP accurately in ways that account for lability in BP levels and minimise error in BP measurement; determine threshold and target BP levels likely to confer net benefit, taking into account age, co-morbidities, frailty and cognitive function; and consider situations that warrant AHD deprescribing on the basis of potential current or future harm. In applying this framework to older persons, and based on a review of relevant randomised trials and observational studies, individuals most likely to benefit from treating systolic BP to no less than 130 mmHg are those of any age who are fit and have high baseline systolic BP (≥ 160 mmHg); high CV risk, i.e. established CV disease or risk of CV events exceeding 20% at 10 years; previous stroke or transient ischaemic attack; heart failure; and stage 3–4 chronic kidney disease with proteinuria. Individuals most likely to be harmed from treating BP to target systolic < 140 mmHg are those who have no CV disease and aged over 80 years; moderate to severe frailty, cognitive impairment or functional limitations; labile BP and/or history of orthostatic hypotension, syncope and falls; or life expectancy < 12 months. Treatment should never be so intense as to reduce diastolic BP to < 60 mmHg in any older person. At a time when guidelines are calling for less conservative management of hypertension in all age groups, we contend that a more temperate approach, such as that offered here and based on the totality of available evidence, may assist in maximising net benefit in older patients.

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