The objective of this study was to investigate the relationship between hypertension and risk of stroke in the elderly. The study was performed within the framework of the Rotterdam Study, a prospective population-based cohort study. The risk of first-ever stroke was associated with hypertension (relative risk, 1.6; 95% CI, 1.2 to 2.0) and with isolated systolic hypertension (relative risk, 1.7; 95% CI, 1.1 to 2.6). We found a continuous increase in stroke incidence with increasing blood pressure in nontreated subjects. In treated subjects, we found a J-shaped relation between blood pressure and the risk of stroke. In the lowest category of diastolic blood pressure, the increase of stroke risk was statistically significant compared with the reference category. Hypertension and isolated systolic hypertension are strong risk factors for stroke in the elderly. The increased stroke risk in the lowest stratum of blood pressure in treated hypertensive patients may indicate that the therapeutic goal of "the lower the better" is not the optimal strategy in the elderly.

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Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam