Low blood pressure may actually increase early death risk in older people

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In a recent study published in Age and Ageing, researchers found a link between low blood pressure (below 130/80) and higher death risk in older people.

The research was done by a team at the University of Exeter. One author is Jane Masoli, a geriatrician, and NIHR Doctoral Research Fellow.

Some countries have changed blood pressure guidelines to encourage clinicians to take measures to reduce blood pressure in a bid to improve health outcomes.

In the study, the team analyzed 415,980 electronic medical records of older adults in England.

They found that people aged 75 or over with low blood pressure had increased death rates in the follow-up, compared to those with normal blood pressure.

This was especially pronounced in ‘frail’ individuals, who had a 62% increased risk of death during the ten-year follow-up.

Although high blood pressure increased the risk of cardiovascular incidents, such as heart attacks, it was not linked to a higher death risk in frail adults over 75.

Older people aged 85 and over who had raised blood pressure actually had reduced death risks, compared to those with lower blood pressure, regardless of whether they were frail or not.

The researchers say that internationally, guidelines are moving towards tight blood pressure targets, but their findings show that this may not be appropriate in frail older adults.

Scientists need more research to ascertain whether aggressive blood pressure control is safe in older adults, and then for which patient groups there may be a benefit, so they can move towards more personalized blood pressure management in older adults.

They also say that treating blood pressure helps to prevent strokes and heart attacks and they would not advise anyone to stop taking their medications unless guided by their doctor.

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