Postural blood pressure changes and orthostatic hypotension in the elderly patient: Impact of antihypertensive medications

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74 Scopus citations


With age our ability to maintain haemodynamic homeostasis during position changes becomes less effective. This predisposes elderly patients to significant changes in blood pressure upon standing and orthostatic hypotension (OH). The prevalence of OH varies according to the population being studied. A range of between 5% and 60% has been reported with the lower rate in elderly individuals living in the community and higher rates in those living in an institution or in the acute-care setting. Multiple factors have been linked to OH including age, bed rest, low body mass index and medications. Although antihypertensive medications can theoretically, as a group, worsen OH, the majority of cross-sectional studies have found no association. In addition, prospective randomised trials have demonstrated an improvement in postural blood pressure (PBP) changes with antihypertensive medications. When considering the individual classes, peripheral vasodilators, specifically α-adrenoceptor antagonists and nondihydropyridine calcium channel antagonists, can exacerbate PBP changes and lead to OH. ACE inhibitors, angiotensin-receptor antagonists and β-adrenoceptor antagonists with intrinsic sympathomimetic activity are less likely to worsen OH. Careful management of electrolyte disturbance can decrease the risk of developing OH with diuretic use. With the aging population, this problem will be encountered by the clinicians at a much higher rate. A detailed patient history, an accurate orthostatic blood pressure measurement and careful evaluation of the autonomic nervous system can provide clinical guidance for management of OH. In hypertensive individuals with no pre-treatment OH, the use of antihypertensive medication can be safe and lead to a low risk of developing OH. In individuals with pre-treatment OH or who develop OH while on antihypertensive medications avoidance of the classes that may exacerbate OH and a judicious use of antihypertensive classes that may improve PBP changes may be safe and adequate treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)55-68
Number of pages14
JournalDrugs and Aging
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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