High blood pressure increases the risk of strokes and heart problems
Treating the over 80s with blood pressure drugs cuts the risk of strokes and heart problems, a study says.
The Imperial College London research, involving 3,845 patients with high blood pressure, found drug treatment reduced their death rates by a fifth.
Some doctors believe higher blood pressure readings in older people are natural and therefore do not treat it.
But the researchers and other experts said they should be offered drugs, the New England Journal of Medicine said.
Two thirds of people over 80 have high blood pressure, which increases the risk of strokes and heart problems.
The participants in the Hypertension in the Very Elderly Trial, which was stopped early because of the positive results, were either given a dummy pill or a combination of blood pressure drugs.
The results showed that within a year of treatment, there was a 21% reduction in death rates and a 64% drop in heart failure, 39% drop in stroke deaths and 34% reduction in cardiovascular events.
Lead researcher Professor Christopher Bulpitt said: "Before our study, doctors were unsure about whether very elderly people with high blood pressure could see the same benefits from treatment to lower their blood pressure as those we see in younger people.
"Our results clearly show that many patients aged 80 and over could benefit greatly from treatment.
"Populations are living longer and we have growing numbers of people living well into their 80s and beyond, so this is good news. We are very pleased that cardiovascular events were reduced safely with a reduction in total mortality."
Professor Graham MacGregor, of the Blood Pressure Association, agreed elderly people should be given treatment.
"We need to ensure that, where appropriate, their blood pressure is treated and controlled."
A spokesman for the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, which advises the NHS on what treatment to use, said the findings were in line with its current guidance which was to treat over 80s the same as younger age groups.