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Treat ’em

The elderly benefit from lowered blood pressure

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3:15pm, April 30, 2008

People age 80 and over who have high blood pressure live longer if they receive drugs to lower it, a new study finds. While that statement might seem obvious, medical opinion has been unclear on the advisability of treating hypertension in the very elderly.

Some research has failed to show benefits from reducing blood pressure in such people, and other studies have even associated high blood pressure with longer survival in the group.

“That association probably didn’t reflect that low blood pressure was bad for you,” says Nigel Beckett, a geriatrician at Imperial College London. Reducing high blood pressure consistently benefits people in other age groups. More likely, people with low blood pressure didn’t live as long because they also had cancer, dementia, heart problems or other conditions that depressed their blood pressure, he says.

Nevertheless, many physicians have hesitated to treat high blood pressure in

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