Blood pressure in elderly people gradually begins to decrease about 14 years before death, a study warns.
Researchers from the University of Connecticut in the US and the University of Exeter Medical School in the UK looked at the electronic medical records of 46,634 people who had died at age 60 or older.
The large sample size included people who were healthy as well as those who had conditions such as heart disease or dementia.
They found blood pressure declines were steepest in patients with dementia, heart failure, late-in-life weight loss, and those who had high blood pressure to begin with.
However, long-term declines also occurred without the presence of any of these diagnoses.
"Our work highlights the importance of conducting research evaluating older patients like those seen in physician practices everywhere," said George Kuchel, from the University of Connecticut.
The findings, published in Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine, should make both doctors and researchers carefully consider what dropping blood pressure really means for older patients, Kuchel added.
Doctors have long known that in the average person, blood pressure rises from childhood to middle age. However, normal blood pressure in the elderly has been less certain.
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