Elderly Often Skip Blood Pressure Pills
High Blood Pressure Ignored in Favor of Treating Illnesses With Noticeable Symptoms
June 27, 2005 -- Seniors may be more likely to take medications for diseases
that produce noticeable symptoms rather than treat high blood pressure --- the
High blood pressure is known as the silent killer because it has no
symptoms. The condition dramatically raises the risk of heart attack, heart
failure, stroke, and kidney failure.
"We found [in a study] that elderly high blood pressure patients with
other illnesses were generally half as likely to take their medication for high
blood pressure," says researcher Philip Wang, MD, assistant professor of
psychiatry, medicine, and health care policy at Harvard Medical School, in a
"This is a little surprising when you consider the magnitude and
consistency of the effectiveness of high blood pressure medication," Wang
The elderly frequently suffer from more than one chronic medical condition.
"Awareness needs to be raised to the fact that high blood pressure is as
important to treat as more symptomatic conditions," says Wang.
Blood Pressure Treatment Often Neglected
In the study, researchers analyzed information provided by more than 50,000
men and women over age 65 with high blood pressure who were enrolled in
Pennsylvania's state prescription benefits program.
Researchers found that elderly people with other conditions not related to
heart disease were much less likely to take their prescribed blood pressure
For example, the likelihood of the elderly taking their high blood pressure
- 57% less if they had asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- 50% less if they had depression
- 41% less if they had gastrointestinal disorders
- 37% less if they had osteoarthritis
Researchers say the results are alarming because only 60% of people with
high blood pressure are treated, and of those only about one-third have their
blood pressure levels adequately controlled.
The results are problematic in light of the very clear evidence of the
benefit of high blood pressure therapy in preventing and reducing damage to
multiple organs, they write.