Controlling high blood pressure is an important part of healthy aging. The benefits are widespread, according to research, and may include preventing heart disease, strokes and, even, Alzheimer’s disease.
Q. The last time my 80-year-old father was at his doctor’s office his blood pressure was elevated. The doctor wants to put him on medication, but he doesn’t want any part of that. He just doesn’t seem as interested about his health since mom died. How can I convince him?
Tell your dad about a recent review of nearly 15 studies over the past nearly 40 years. Those studies show that older people – those 60 and older – seeking treatment for hypertension may live longer, healthier lives. What’s more, one recent study shows that blood pressure medication could prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
The review of 15 studies featured more than 24,000 participants in which the oldest person was 105 years old and the average age was 74. Studies took place between 1970 and 2008.
“Before the first definitive clinical-trial evidence supporting blood-pressure lowering treatment was produced in the mid-1980s, systolic hypertension was regarded as a natural feature of aging and some feared excessive harm from blood-pressure lowering in this age group,” said lead review author Dr. Vijaya Musini from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.
Systolic hypertension – in which the “upper” blood pressure measurement is 140 or higher – is more likely to occur in older people and experts now consider it a better predictor of heart attack and strokes than diastolic blood pressure the "lower" blood pressure measurement.) Blood pressure measurements for the study patients averaged 172/81.
“Older people also accumulate higher rates of other risk factors for cardiovascular disease including obesity, a sedentary life style and diabetes,” Musini said.
The review, which appeared in the The Cochran Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, concluded that treatment for hypertension reduced the overall number of fatalities whether or not they were associated with cardiovascular disease. The review also found that treating hypertension can also reduce the risk of stroke and disability, risk factors that are independent of those for heart disease.
Another study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation reports several drugs used to treat hypertension appear to be capable of preventing Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive deterioration. The study found these drugs “significantly” effective in preventing beta-amyloid development in the brain, a key element in Alzheimer's disease.
This research was conducted by Dr. Giulio Maria Pasinetti, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, Geriatrics and Adult Development and Director of the Center of Excellence for Research in Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Alzheimer's disease at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
He reports that a large number of geriatric patients currently under pharmacological treatment for high-blood pressure with certain anti-hypertensive drugs might reap the additional benefits of the drug's cognitive effects.
That’s why it’s so important for your father to listen to his doctor. Perhaps your dad could also benefit from a little companionship at home. Why not contact your local Home Instead Senior Care® office to learn how a CAREGiverSM could help him.