Nitrate therapy in the elderly

Am J Cardiol. 1990 Jun 4;65(21):23J-27J. doi: 10.1016/0002-9149(90)91306-q.


Changes in the heart and blood vessels with age alter the response of the cardiovascular system to pharmacologic agents. Nitrate plasma half-life is longer and volume of distribution is larger in older persons. Apparently, these pharmacokinetic differences in older persons lead to increased venous smooth muscle responsivity to nitrates which, in turn, leads to greater reductions in central venous and pulmonary arterial pressures after nitrate administration. This is probably the explanation for the greater frequency of nitrate-induced severe hypotension and bradycardia in elderly patients with myocardial infarction compared with younger patients. Clinicians should be cognizant of the changes in the cardiovascular system which occur with age that sensitize the elderly patient to the action of organic nitrates. Initial dosages of nitrates should accordingly be less than in younger patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Bradycardia / chemically induced
  • Coronary Disease / drug therapy*
  • Half-Life
  • Humans
  • Hypotension / chemically induced
  • Isosorbide Dinitrate / pharmacokinetics
  • Isosorbide Dinitrate / therapeutic use*
  • Nitroglycerin / pharmacokinetics
  • Nitroglycerin / therapeutic use*


  • Nitroglycerin
  • Isosorbide Dinitrate