Taking blood pressure medication as prescribed helped even the frailest elderly people (65 and older) live longer, and the healthiest older people had the biggest survival boost, according to a large study in northern Italy published today in Hypertension, an American Heart Association journal.
“We knew that high blood pressure medication was protective in general among older people, however, we focused on whether it is also protective in frail patients with many other medical conditions who are usually excluded from randomized trials,” said Giuseppe Mancia, M.D., lead study author and professor emeritus at the University of Milano-Bicocca in Milan, Italy.
Researchers reviewed data on almost 1.3 million people aged 65 and older (average age 76) in the Lombardy region of northern Italy who had 3 or more high blood pressure medication prescriptions in 2011-2012. Examining the public health care database, researchers calculated the percentage of time over the next seven years (or until death) that each person continued to receive the medications. Because almost all medications are free or low-cost and dispensed by the public health service, this corresponds roughly to people’s adherence in using the medication in Italy.
To look separately at outcomes among older people with various medical conditions, researchers used a previously developed score that accounts for 34 different health factors and has a close relationship with mortality.
Researchers compared roughly 255,000 people who died during the 7-year follow-up with age-, gender-, and health-status-matched controls who survived and divided them into four groups of health status: good, medium, poor or very poor.
The probability of death over 7-years was 16% for people rated in good health at the beginning of the study. Mortality probability increased progressively to 64% for those rated in very poor health.
Compared with people with very low adherence to blood pressure medications (dispensed pills covered less than 25% of the time period), people with high adherence to blood pressure medications (more than 75% of the time period covered) were:
44% less likely to die if they started in good health; and
33% less likely to die if they started in very poor health.