Recognition and Management of Hypertension in Older Persons: Focus on African Americans

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2015 Oct;63(10):2130-8. doi: 10.1111/jgs.13672.


Hypertension is the most commonly diagnosed condition in persons aged 60 and older and is the single most important risk factor for cardiovascular disease (ischemic heart disease, heart failure, and stroke), kidney disease, and dementia. More than half of individuals with hypertension in the United States are aged 60 and older. Hypertension disproportionately affects African Americans, with all age groups, including elderly adults, having a higher burden of hypertension-related complications than other U.S.

Populations: Multiple clinical trials have demonstrated the beneficial effects of blood pressure (BP) reduction on cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, with most of the evidence in individuals aged 60 and older. Several guidelines have recently been published on the specific management of hypertension in individuals aged 60 and older, including in high-risk groups such as African Americans. Most recommend careful evaluation, thiazide diuretics and calcium-channel blockers for initial drug therapy in most African Americans, and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers in those with chronic kidney disease or heart failure. Among the areas of controversy is the recommended target BP in African Americans aged 60 and older. A recent U.S. guideline recommended raising the systolic BP target from less than 140 mmHg to less than 150 mmHg in this population. This article will review the evidence and current guideline recommendations for hypertension treatment in older African Americans, including the rationale for continuing to recommend a SBP target of less than 140 mmHg in this population.

Keywords: African Americans; clinical trials; hypertension; management of hypertension.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Aged
  • Antihypertensive Agents* / classification
  • Antihypertensive Agents* / therapeutic use
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Cost of Illness*
  • Disease Management
  • Drug Therapy, Combination / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension* / complications
  • Hypertension* / diagnosis
  • Hypertension* / ethnology
  • Hypertension* / psychology
  • Hypertension* / therapy
  • Kidney Diseases* / etiology
  • Kidney Diseases* / mortality
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Ischemia* / etiology
  • Myocardial Ischemia* / mortality
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Risk Reduction Behavior
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Antihypertensive Agents