Why beta-blockers are not cardioprotective in elderly patients with hypertension

Curr Cardiol Rep. 2002 Nov;4(6):468-73. doi: 10.1007/s11886-002-0108-3.


Despite the fact that beta-blockers have been used for the treatment of hypertension for more than 30 years, no study has shown that their use reduces morbidity and mortality in the elderly. To the contrary, the British Medical Research Council trial in the elderly documented that although blood pressure was lowered effectively and significantly by atenolol, morbidity and mortality in the beta-blocker group did not differ from that of the placebo group. Not only was beta-blocker monotherapy not effective, but patients who received the combination of beta-blockers and diuretics fared consistently worse than those on diuretics alone. beta-blockers are less effective than diuretics in lowering blood pressure, and are poorly tolerated in the elderly. The reason for their inefficacy in the elderly may be related to their inherent unfavorable effect on systemic hemodynamics and pathophysiologic findings in the arterial tree, heart, kidneys, brain, and on the metabolism of lipids and carbohydrates. Decreased beta-adrenergic responsiveness with age and comorbid conditions makes beta-blockers unattractive. Thus, they should not be considered appropriate for first-line therapy of uncomplicated hypertension in the geriatric population.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / adverse effects
  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / pharmacology*
  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Aged
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects
  • Cardiac Output / drug effects
  • Cardiovascular System / drug effects*
  • Cardiovascular System / physiopathology
  • Comorbidity
  • Heart / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / drug therapy*
  • Hypertension, Renal / drug therapy
  • Vascular Resistance / drug effects


  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists