Blood pressure and ageing: longitudinal cohort study

BMJ 1998; 317 doi: (Published 22 August 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:513
  1. John M Starr (, senior lecturera,
  2. Susan Inch, research nursea,
  3. Susan Cross, research nursea,
  4. William J MacLennan, professora,
  5. Ian J Deary, professorb
  1. aGeriatric Medicine Unit, University of Edinburgh EH3 9EW
  2. bDepartment of Psychology, University of Edinburgh EH8 9JZ
  1. Correspondence to: Dr John M Starr, Royal Victoria Hospital, Edinburgh EH4 2DN
  • Accepted 26 March 1998

Arterial blood pressure rises throughout most of life in industrialised societies.1 In old age, however, blood pressure —especially diastolic— >falls.1 This may be because people who are included in epidemiological studies have diseases or take drugs that affect blood pressure. As greater disease free life expectancy is predicted, the prevalence of hypertension in the elderly may rise if a continued blood pressure increase occurs in those who remain healthy. The few studies examining this provide no consensus. 2,3 We investigated whether blood pressure changes in old age relate to health.

Subjects, methods, and results

We visited 602 (237 men, 365 women) untreated, healthy subjects (mean age 75.7 years, range 70-88 years) at home.4Educational attainment was recorded and occupation classed as standard occupational classification groups 1-4 (white collar occupations) and groups 5-9 (blue collar occupations).5 Blood pressure was measured after the subjects had rested for 25-30 minutes.(A longer version of the methods appears on our web site.) …

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