Background: Increased pulse pressure and arterial stiffness are identified as predictors of cardiovascular risk in older hypertensive populations, particularly that of myocardial infarction. Because increased pulse pressure involves an increase in systolic (SBP) and a decrease in diastolic blood pressure (DBP), and because the former promotes cardiac hypertrophy and the latter alters coronary perfusion, a drug regimen reducing pulse pressure and decreasing arterial stiffness might further reduce cardiovascular risk. Under conventional treatment, normalization of DBP (< or = 90 mmHg) is not consistently associated with normalization of SBP (< or = 140 mmHg).
Therapeutic designs: In individuals older than 50 years, the goal of antihypertensive treatment should be, not only to decrease mean blood pressure (to less than 100 mmHg), but also to decrease pulse pressure (to less than 50 mmHg). Using appropriate pharmacological tools, trials should test whether an active decrease in arterial stiffness might produce an attenuation of the age-related increase in SBP and decrease in DBP, thus delaying the age-related increase in pulse pressure and decreasing further cardiovascular risk. This procedure requires concomitant non-invasive evaluations of aortic stiffness.
Conclusion: The studies that are required in hypertension should use two different approaches: novel titrations of conventional drugs to achieve a decrease in either SBP or pulse pressure, and development of new drugs acting selectively on the large artery wall, to facilitate the conduct of subsequent controlled trials.