Hypertension in the frail elderly

Barry J. Materson, Manuel Garcia-Estrada, Richard A. Preston

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Extant data indicate that treating to lower systolic pressure confers significant advantage to younger people in general good health and to relatively healthy octogenarians. Few data exist to guide practitioners on the treatment of frail elderly hypertensives. Chronological age alone does not suffice to make useful judgments regarding therapy. The definition of frailty remains controversial. One method, use of a simple questionnaire or a test of walking speed is practical but not universally accepted. Frail subjects, while at higher risk for cardiovascular complications, seem to benefit less or not at all from antihypertensive drug treatment. Clinicians should treat robust older patients as they would younger patients because the benefits far outweigh the low risk of adverse effects. Successful antihypertensive therapy in those younger than 80 years should not be discontinued simply because that age milestone has been crossed. Treatment of frail older patients must be individualized. Some frail survivors age 80 years or older may actually fare better with elevated systolic pressures. Pending the cognitive function substudy of Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial, there is little evidence that antihypertensive treatment benefits established cognitive dysfunction. Because hypertension in middle age is a good predictor of later cognitive dysfunction, the clinical approach should be one of early prevention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)536-541
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American Society of Hypertension
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016


  • Drug treatment
  • elderly
  • frail
  • hypertension

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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