Blood pressure pills should be considered for all over 50s, says heart professor

‘Let all over-50s get blood pressure pills’: Tablets should be considered for all elderly patients, even if they have no symptoms, heart professor says

  • Oxford professor thinks blood pressure tablets should be given to all over 50s
  • Pills found to reduce the risk of stroke, heart attack, heart disease and heart failure
  • Heart professor Kazem Rahimi led a team that analyzed more than 350,000 people

According to an Oxford professor, blood pressure tablets should be considered for all people over 50, even if they do not have high blood pressure.

The pills have been found to reduce the risk of strokes, heart attacks, heart disease and heart failure in older people, even if their blood pressure was normal to begin with.

Professor Kazem Rahimi led a team that analyzed more than 350,000 people who were given blood pressure tablets — such as ACE inhibitors and beta blockers — or a dummy pill.

People aged 55 to 84 were 9 percent less likely to have a cardiovascular event for every small drop in their blood pressure — which can be achieved by taking one tablet daily.

Oxford professor believes blood pressure tablets should be given to all over 50s as research shows they reduce the risk of stroke, heart attack, heart disease and heart failure (stock image)

Oxford professor believes blood pressure tablets should be given to all over 50s as research shows they reduce the risk of stroke, heart attack, heart disease and heart failure (stock image)

The professor of cardiovascular medicine said: ‘We saw a reduction in risk in people with normal blood pressure, or with moderately elevated blood pressure, and in people with high blood pressure.

‘That suggests that anyone aged 50 or older should be eligible for blood pressure tablets.

“General practitioners are often reluctant to prescribe these drugs because they don’t want to over-medicalize people with normal blood pressure, but this study shows that these preventative drugs reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes for these people, in all age groups.”

Critics argue that artificially lowering blood pressure could reduce blood flow to the heart and brain, potentially causing memory problems or stroke. But the study authors found no evidence of increased mortality among elderly people given blood pressure tablets. Their analysis, published in the medical journal The Lancet, looked at 358,707 people from 51 separate studies of blood pressure pills.

They were followed for an average of four and a half years to see if they had a heart attack, stroke, or heart disease, and if they were taken to hospital with heart failure or died from it.

The risk of these events was reduced by 22 percent in individuals under the age of 55 for every 5 mm reduction in their systolic blood pressure — the lowest number in a blood pressure reading. The risk was reduced by 9 percent in people aged 55 to 84 for every 5mm drop in blood pressure – which can be achieved by taking about one tablet.

Professor Kazem Rahimi (pictured) led a team that analyzed more than 350,000 people who were given blood pressure tablets - and found that people aged 55 to 84 were 9% less likely to have a cardiovascular event

Professor Kazem Rahimi (pictured) led a team that analyzed more than 350,000 people who were given blood pressure tablets - and found that people aged 55 to 84 were 9% less likely to have a cardiovascular event

Professor Kazem Rahimi (pictured) led a team that analyzed more than 350,000 people who were given blood pressure tablets – and found that people aged 55 to 84 were 9% less likely to have a cardiovascular event

The actual number of cardiovascular events was reduced more in older people who received blood pressure lowering drugs, because they have more heart attacks and strokes and thus benefit more from treatment. The effect on risk of cardiovascular events was similar for those with all blood pressure readings. The treatment is only routinely given to people with significantly elevated high blood pressure.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence says people over 80 in the UK should have a blood pressure below 150/90. Professor Rahimi suggests removing age-based guidance such as this one.

His team found no significant reduction in the risk of cardiovascular events for people aged 85 and older, but only a small number of these were available for analysis.

He said: ‘Older people have an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes, so doctors should not deprive them of blood pressure tablets. It would be easy to calculate their risk and whether the drugs are needed based on factors such as age, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, whether they smoke and whether they have diabetes.’

Professor Sir Nilesh Samani of the British Heart Foundation, who helped fund the research, said: ‘Our risk of heart attack and stroke increases as we age and this study reinforces the importance of controlling blood pressure to reduce that risk. ‘

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