Health & Medical Hypertension

Nearly Half of Americans Have Uncontrolled High BP

´╗┐Nearly Half of Americans Have Uncontrolled High BP

Nearly Half of Americans Have Uncontrolled High BP

Big part of the problem is getting people to take medications, stick with them, experts say

A large part of the problem is getting people to start taking blood pressure medications, and then to stay up with them, said Dr. Richard Stein, director of the Urban Community Cardiology Program at the New York University School of Medicine.

"Patients don't like to take drugs," Stein said. "I don't like to take drugs. Drugs that don't have an obvious beneficial effect for me, it's easier for me to forget to take them."

High blood pressure is called the "silent killer" because people often have no immediate symptoms. Prescribing medication to a person who feels well can be difficult, Stein said.

"When you start on medication, you're usually prescribed at least two different drugs," he said. "Suddenly you're going from nothing to two or more drugs, and now we've turned you from a person who was healthy and now you think you're sick."

Stein said doctors are going to need to figure out better ways of counseling patients to keep taking their medications, possibly by drawing attention to other members in their family who died of conditions related to high blood pressure.

"If you don't do anything different than he did, you're probably going to have the same problems that he did," Stein said.

O'Gara said that doctors will need to rely on other health care professionals, including nurses and pharmacists, to keep up the pressure on patients to take their blood pressure medications.

"Can we expand the number of providers who would supervise the treatment of hypertension?" he said. "If I had 10 pharmacists who worked with me, I could reach 100 people more effectively. Primary care is shifting to where people go to buy their toiletries and toothpaste, out there in the community for these patients with chronic illnesses. It's not coming to an academic medical center to have me take their blood pressure."

However, it's probably going to take a concerted effort to teach the next generation healthy habits before a big difference is seen in America's blood pressure rates, O'Gara concluded.

"I think it may take a generational change, to alter our proclivity to overeat and use too much salt, to not exercise and spend too much time in front of a screen," he said.

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