Hypertension in people with dementia – what should we do?

28 August 2013

Tomas Welsh is a Clinical Lecturer in the Medicine of Older People at the University of Nottingham and a recent recipient of a BGS grant to support research in geriatric medicineHIND

Antihypertensive therapy is effective even in the oldest old. However, the large trials of antihypertensive medications, even in older people, frequently excluded people with dementia. This causes difficulties in applying these findings to many of our typical patient group.

People with dementia are more likely to be physically frail, are at higher risk of adverse events due to polypharmacy and are more likely to experience orthostatic hypotension than their cognitively intact peers.  There is reason to suspect, therefore, that the risk-benefit ratio of treating hypertension may be different in this group and many clinicians intuitively feel this to be the case.  

We are currently embarking on a programme of research with the intention of helping to clarify this uncertainty and to provide some guidance on the optimal treatment of hypertension in this cohort. The initial step in this project sets out to describe how hypertension is currently treated in people with dementia, whether doctors follow generic guidelines or whether they attenuate their practice in light of the above considerations. To achieve this aim we have devised an observational study to describe current practice, and a literature review to examine relevant existent data.  The first output of the project – a literature review concerning management of hypertension in care homes – can be found here.

A start up grant from the BGS has provided a great boost in getting this work going. Every year the BGS offers 4 grants of up to £10,000 to specialist registrars in geriatric medicine. The grant is aimed at allowing a research project to get started quickly, or to conduct a pilot study potentially bridging the gap to more substantial funding. I would strongly encourage any trainee in Geriatrics thinking about conducting some research to look into this funding option.

For more information about BGS grants contact scientificofficer [at] bgs [dot] org [dot] uk (mailto:)

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