Reporting in the Journal of the American Medical Association (September 2004), researchers found that many physicians are ignoring the need to treat older individuals with high systolic blood pressure. The study claimed that drug treatment should begin when systolic pressure is 160 mm Hg or higher in older Americans. Although medical studies have shown a positive outcome in keeping systolic pressure <160 mm Hg, many physicians disregard those findings, clinging instead to an outmoded belief that a systolic pressure of 100 mm Hg plus an individual's age is safe, said study author Sarwat I. Chaudhry, MD.

The article cited a recent report by the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure, stating that older individuals with higher systolic pressure should be the focus of treatment. There is evidence, however, that poor control of systolic pressure is becoming more common. An individual with blood pressure at or near the danger level "needs to talk to a doctor and come up with a treatment plan," said Dr. Chaudhry. "This should be a decision process in which patients talk to physicians."