High Blood Pressure
Most trials have been run with diuretics and beta-blockers as first-line drugs. Since the 1980s, the efficacy and safety of these two classes of drugs have been demonstrated in elderly subjects (Amery et al.; SHEP; Dahlöf et al.; MRC). The benefit of calcium-channel blockers (Staessen et al. 1997; Hansson, Lindholm, Ekbom et al.) and angiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitors (Hansson, Lindholm, Niskanan et al.) has been shown for the prevention of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular complications in older patients.
Because age- and disease-associated factors affect the metabolism and distribution of pharmacologic agents, antihypertensive therapy should be given at low doses, which should be increased gradually. However, despite alterations in metabolism, most elderly patients tolerate medication without a significant increase in adverse events compared to younger patients or control groups. First-line treatment should consist of diuretics or beta-blockers (JNC-VI). In isolated systolic hypertension, diuretics and calcium-channel blockers are recommended (SHEP; Staessen et al., 1997).
Concomitant diseases may influence the choice of therapy. In patients with coronary artery disease, beta-blockers may be useful, but peripheral artery disease, heart failure, or obstructive bronchopathy may limit their use in elderly persons. In older patients with coronary artery disease, use of calcium-channel blockers may be discussed. In cardiac dysfunction and congestive heart failure, prescription of diuretics, angiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitors, or both is an appropriate initial choice. In older adults, fixed-dose combination therapy has the advantage of increasing compliance, reducing the cost of antihypertensive therapy, and achieving a higher response rate.
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