Systolic hypertension in the elderly

Cardiovascular Drugs and Therapy
G H Rutan

Abstract

Historically diastolic blood pressure (BP) rather than systolic BP has been regarded clinically as the more important component related to subsequent hypertensive morbidity and mortality, and treatment has thus been directed towards lowering the diastolic BP. Observational studies across many different populations have related cerebrovascular disease and death more to the systolic BP, which appears selectively to increase as the population ages. Isolated systolic hypertension (ISH), therefore, may be more prevalent as westernized societies become older. Those affected with ISH suffer a two- to fivefold increase in rates of stroke and ischemic heart disease compared to normotensives. Currently no clinical trials data exist for ISH showing the efficacy of antihypertensive therapy upon final morbidity and mortality, but a large-scale multicenter clinical trial, the Systolic Hypertension in the Elderly Program (SHEP), is currently underway in the United States. Results are expected in the early 1990s. If the results of this trial confirm the efficacy of treating ISH, the therapeutic challenge of ISH will be to selectively decrease systolic BP without undue side effects.

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