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American Study Shows Few Seniors Get Effective Treatment for High Blood Pressure

Most people over the age of 80 have high blood pressure, putting them at risk for a stroke. And even though there are cost-effective medications such as thiazide diuretics that can reduce blood pressure, very few of the elderly receive effective treatment.

A new study published in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, examined high blood pressure in older adults in America.

The study was led by Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones at Northwestern University in the U.S. state of Illinois. Dr. Lloyd-Jones discussed the findings: "What we found is that among the oldest individuals, those 80 year of age and older, more than 75 percent have high blood pressure," he explained.

Dr. Lloyd-Jones and his colleagues measured blood pressure and heart health in more than 5,000 older people and tracked them for up to six years. "When we look at control rates, that is how well do we control the blood pressure among people with hypertension, we're doing a very poor job at getting the blood pressure down."

Less than 40 percent of the men and fewer than 25 percent of the women had their high blood pressure treated effectively. And, Dr. Lloyd-Jones says, there's more, "Twenty-five percent of the oldest people with hypertension had a major cardiovascular disease event within the next six years, meaning that they were hospitalized for stroke, a heart attack or heart failure."

So the risks of high blood pressure are real. Dr. Lloyd-Jones recalls conversations from his older patients, "I have a lot of patients who are age 80 and older, and most of them say to me, 'you know, Doctor, I've lived a long time and had a great life, and I don't care if I die at this point, but don't let me have a big stroke," he said.

The best way to prevent stroke is to control blood pressure. The researchers say doctors should be more aggressive in treating high blood pressure in the elderly, and that older people also need to be more aggressive in seeking treatment.