Blood pressure declines years before death, study finds

Blood pressure declines years before death, study finds

New research has discovered that blood pressure begins to decline in older people a number of years before they die.

A study took place at the University of Exeter in the UK and University of Connecticut Health in the US concerning the medical records of 46,634 British patients.

All had died at age 60 or above and although some had illnesses such as heart conditions or dementia, the sample also included people who were completely healthy.

It was found that while the blood pressure declines were steepest in patients with pre-existing illnesses and those with very high blood pressure to start with, rates began to decline around 14 years before death even in the healthy sample.

This could demonstrate a need for more careful monitoring of blood pressure in the elderly,  potentially in community pharmacies to ease pressure on doctors' surgeries, in order to highlight underlying health conditions that may eventually lead to death.

It has long been known the blood pressure rises between childhood and middle age, but the parameters of what is considered normal for the elderly has previously been less certain.

Writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine, one of the study authors George Kuchel said the findings should make doctors and researchers carefully consider the implications of decreasing blood pressure for older patients and the reasons for it to happen.

"Observational studies such as ours need to be followed by rigorous clinical trials in order to guide clinical care guidelines," he added.

The symptoms of low blood pressure can include dizziness, dehydration, lack of concentration, blurred vision, fatigue and depression.

Low blood pressure can occur for a number of reasons, including genetics and drugs used to treat depression and heart problems, such as beta blockers and angiotensin receptor blockers.