Doctors' attitudes towards the detection and treatment of hypertension in older people.
Duggan S., Ford GA., Eccles M.
Within the former northern region a questionnaire was sent to a one in two random sample of general practitioners and to consultant physicians involved in the treatment of older hypertensive patients, to determine current attitudes of doctors to the management of hypertension in older people. A total of 407 general practitioners and 125 consultant physicians (including 38 consultant geriatricians) completed the questionnaire; response rates of 58% and 73% respectively. The median (range) threshold level for intervention of an otherwise well 75-year-old patient was 180 (140-240)/100 (90-120) mm Hg for general practitioners as against current recommendations of > or = 160/90 mm Hg. Geriatricians adopted significantly lower thresholds than both general practitioners and other specialists. Target blood pressure (BP) and drug therapy were in line with British Hypertension Society recommendations. The majority of general practitioners stated that they would initiate treatment for hypertension later, be less aggressive in their treatment and accept higher levels of BP than with younger patients. Approximately half perceived compliance and lifestyle changes as problematic in older people, while approximately a third were concerned about the problems created by drug treatment and uncertainty about the practicality of treating all older hypertensive patients. A quarter expressed reluctance to initiate hypertensive treatment because of side effects and to treat isolated systolic hypertension. These stated attitudes amongst general practitioners may explain the continuing conservatism in the management of hypertension. This study found considerable variation in diagnostic threshold between doctors, which suggests that current management of hypertension in older people is likely to vary significantly.