Hypertension in the elderly: attitudes of British patients and general practitioners
The perceptions of patients and GPs of the risk of stroke in treated and untreated elderly hypertensives, and their attitudes towards anti-hypertensive therapy were examined. To explore attitudes of patients to the management of hypertension a qualitative approach was used, employing semi-structured interviews, with subsequent thematic analysis of the transcriptions. A questionnaire study of GPs’ attitudes to the same subject was also conducted.The elderly (n = 75) greatly overestimate the risks of hypertension and the benefits of treatment. Most would accept anti-hypertensive therapy despite being informed of the true risks, citing confidence in their doctor as the major determinant in their decision. GPs (n = 121) were well informed of the risks and benefits, but less than half adhere to current guidelines.GPs should be aware how much the elderly overestimate the risks of hypertension and the benefits of its treatment. When considering treating hypertension in this group, patient contributions in the treatment decision-making process should be actively encouraged, especially as many elderly hold a deferential attitude towards their doctor. Patients should be informed of the risks of their disease and the benefits of treatment in terms they understand. The use of visual aids helps patients to grasp the difficult concepts of risk and benefit.