Recommendation ID

What is the optimum blood pressure target for people aged over 80 with treated primary hypertension?

Any explanatory notes
(if applicable)

Why the committee made the recommendations
No evidence was identified to determine whether cardiovascular risk or blood pressure targets should be used. The committee agreed that in the absence of evidence the focus should be on blood pressure targets, based on their expertise and experience of current practice.

The evidence for blood pressure targets showed that there were both benefits and harms associated with a lower clinic systolic blood pressure target of 120 mmHg compared with 140 mmHg in people with primary hypertension without type 2 diabetes. Although the evidence suggested some benefit in reducing mortality and cardiovascular events, the lower blood pressure target was associated with a greater risk of harms, such as injury from falls and acute kidney injury. The committee agreed that the long-term implications of these adverse events were unclear and that further research is needed.

This evidence came from the SPRINT trial, which was a large study undertaken in the US. The committee discussed concerns about the population included in the study and the applicability to UK practice of the methods used. The study used automated blood pressure devices with a time delay and an isolated rest period, which is not common practice in the UK. The committee considered that the use of these devices would lead to lower blood pressure readings than in routine UK clinical practice. They also had concerns that some medicines were stopped when blood pressure targets were achieved, which may have had an impact on the results. The committee also discussed concerns about applicability of the population, for example, the participants had high cardiovascular risk levels including many with pre-existing cardiovascular disease or renal impairment and were already receiving treatment before the study started. These concerns made the evidence difficult to interpret and use to inform the recommendations. Further details of the committee's discussion of this study is included in evidence review D: targets.

Evidence from a smaller study also showed some benefit of lowering clinic systolic blood pressure targets to 130 mmHg. However, the committee noted that the study was based on people already receiving treatment and that it lacked information on adverse events.

The committee agreed that there was no evidence to suggest that blood pressure targets should be different in people with type 2 diabetes. Evidence for lower targets in people with type 2 diabetes was also limited, with some evidence to suggest that lower blood pressure targets did not reduce the rate of cardiovascular events. Previous recommendations for people with type 2 diabetes (in NICE's guideline on type 2 diabetes in adults) suggested a blood pressure target below 130/80 mmHg in the presence of target organ damage such as kidney, cerebrovascular or eye disease. The committee noted that the evidence behind this recommendation was based on 2 small studies in people without hypertension. They also had concerns about the relevance of the study design. The committee were also aware of trial data showing less benefit in populations with type 2 diabetes with fewer additional risk factors. The committee therefore agreed that there was insufficient evidence to recommend a different blood pressure target for this subgroup. It was noted that people with later-stage chronic kidney disease are covered by other NICE guidelines.

Overall, the committee agreed that the evidence was unclear and insufficient to determine whether a lower target would be beneficial and whether it would outweigh the associated harms. Therefore, the 2011 clinic blood pressure target of 140/90 mmHg for adults under 80 years was retained and applies to people with or without type 2 diabetes. The corresponding HBPM and ABPM targets were also retained at 135/85 mmHg. The recommendations emphasise the importance of achieving and maintaining a level consistently below the person's blood pressure target, whether this target be based on clinic, HBPM or ABPM.

Based on their experience, the committee members felt that people with postural hypotension are at risk of adverse events if a sitting or lying blood pressure is used for monitoring, because this measurement would overestimate daytime blood pressure and result in overtreatment. For example, a patient with a sitting systolic blood pressure of 140 mmHg might have a much lower blood pressure when standing and be at an increased risk of falls if treated based on their sitting blood pressure. The committee decided to recommend that 3 groups who are at risk of postural hypotension (people over 80 years, with type 2 diabetes and with symptoms of postural hypotension) should have their standing blood pressure measured, and their treatment modified accordingly if they have postural hypotension. The standing blood pressure should be used for future monitoring.

The committee noted that there was a lack of evidence for blood pressure targets in people aged over 80 years. Based on their experience the committee members agreed to retain the recommendation from the 2011 guideline, which was based on the only large, outcome-based randomised controlled trial in this age group. The committee also agreed that different blood pressure targets might be needed for people who are frail or have other conditions because they may have an increased risk of adverse events and less to gain from the long-term benefits of stricter targets. The committee decided it was not possible to define a blood pressure target for all possible clinical scenarios, and so recommended that clinical judgement should be used to agree an achievable target for each individual after a discussion about the possible risks and benefits. The committee agreed that further research in this area would be helpful and developed a research recommendation to inform future guidance for older people.

Source guidance details

Comes from guidance
Hypertension in adults: diagnosis and management
Date issued
August 2019

Other details

Is this a recommendation for the use of a technology only in the context of research? No  
Is it a recommendation that suggests collection of data or the establishment of a register?   No  
Last Reviewed 31/08/2019