Blood pressure control in the elderly: can you have too much of a good thing?

Curr Hypertens Rep. 2009 Oct;11(5):337-42. doi: 10.1007/s11906-009-0057-y.


Hypertension (especially systolic hypertension) is very common in older persons. Systolic hypertension occurs because large conduit arteries become stiffer with age. Strong evidence from randomized trials suggests that treating systolic blood pressures initially higher than 160 mm Hg is extremely beneficial, and a recent trial extended this conclusion to healthy persons over 80 years of age. However, the only trial that has directly tested the use of more aggressive treatment goals (< 140 mm Hg) in the elderly did not show benefit in those older than 75. Risks of overtreating hypertension for the elderly include falls and orthostatic hypotension, and the most compromised older persons may be the most likely to experience adverse effects. Our current state of knowledge requires clinical judgment that balances the immediacy of adverse effects versus the potential but unproven benefits of treatment in deciding whether to treat the elderly more aggressively than the goals used in randomized trials.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging
  • Antihypertensive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / drug therapy*
  • Hypertension / epidemiology
  • Hypertension / physiopathology
  • Risk Factors
  • United States


  • Antihypertensive Agents