Harvard Men's Health Watch

Many older adults take unneeded blood pressure drugs

In the Journals

A study published online June 30, 2016, by Age and Ageing found that adults over age 70 might remain on medications to lower blood pressure (antihypertensive drugs) despite already having attained low pressures. Researchers from the University of Kent in the United Kingdom examined 11,167 patients and discovered that 66% of those with a systolic (top number) blood pressure of less than 100 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) still took antihypertensives. A systolic number of less than 120 mm Hg is considered normal, according to the American Heart Association.

The study highlights an all-too-common scenario where medication is not regularly reviewed and adjusted for physical changes associated with aging as well as the addition of new drugs, says lead researcher Dr. Chris Farmer. This can raise the risk of overmedication. "While treating hypertension can help reduce the risk of strokes and cardiovascular events, antihypertensives can expose patients to potentially dangerous side effects, such as dizziness and falls," according to Dr. Farmer. He suggests patients review their current medications with their doctor to determine if they should take lower dosages or eliminate any drugs.