In a recent study, researchers found that blood pressure in the elderly gradually begins to decrease 14 years before death.
The study was conducted by a research team from the University of Exeter.
Doctors have long known that in the average person, blood pressure rises from childhood to middle age. But normal blood pressure in the elderly has been less certain.
Previous studies have indicated that blood pressure might drop in older patients, and treatment for hypertension has been hypothesized as explaining late-life lower blood pressures.
In the current study, the researchers looked at the electronic medical records of 46,634 British citizens who had died at age 60 or older.
The large sample size included people who were healthy and those who had conditions such as heart disease or dementia.
The team found blood pressure declines were steepest in patients with dementia, heart failure, late-in-life weight loss, and those who had high blood pressure, to begin with.
But long-term declines also occurred in healthy people without any of these diseases.
The evidence was clear that the declines were not due simply to the early deaths of people with high blood pressure.
The team suggests the findings should make both doctors and researchers carefully consider what dropping blood pressure really means for older patients, he added.
The finding does not mean that hypertension should not be treated in late life or that they should stop their blood pressure medications.
More research is needed to figure out why blood pressure declines in the elderly in this way.
It is important for doctors to understand as much as possible around aging and blood pressure, to help personalize treatment.
Professor George Kuchel is one of the study authors.
The study is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine.
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Source: Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine.