Health Nation — 05 September 2012

Nearly 67 million Americans have high blood pressure, but despite getting treatment, more than half aren’t getting their condition under control, according to a new Vital Signs report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Millions more either don’t know they have high blood pressure or just aren’t bothering to get it treated, the report says.

“We have to roll up our sleeves and make blood pressure control a priority every day, with every patient, at every doctor’s visit,” said CDC Director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden.  High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, the first and fourth leading causes of death in the United States,

The CDC estimates that high blood pressure alone contributes to nearly 1.000 deaths per year and accounts for nearly $131 billion in direct healthcare costs annually.

The problem can be managed, according to the CDC, with a team-based approach between health care systems, health care providers, and patients, all working together. This team-based approach can provide patient support and follow-up care, along with helping patients manage medicines and sticking to a blood pressure control plan.

In addition, researchers say patients should be counseled to make important lifestyle changes that affect blood pressure, including eating a healthy, low sodium diet, exercising, maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking.

That team-based approach is also getting the support of the American Heart Association. In a statement, CEO Nancy Brown said, “a team-based approach to hypertension can help ensure that patients with this condition get the best quality care.”

She added that team-based care models also help address the efficiency, access and cost issues facing the nation’s healthcare system by using healthcare professional to the fullest extent of their training and skill.

According to the CDC report, high blood pressure controls improve when health care systems use electronic health records, encourage the use of 90-day refills, and have low or no co-payments.

Health care providers can also help by tracking their patients’ blood pressure, prescribing once-a- day medications, and by giving clear instructions on taking blood pressure medications.

And patients need to take the initiative by monitoring their blood pressure levels between medical visits, taking medications as prescribed by their doctor, and notifying their doctor of any side effects.

High blood pressure, also called hypertension, means having a systolic blood pressure number (top number) of 140 mmHg or higher,  and a diastolic blood pressure (bottom number) of 90 mmHg or greater.

Although medication is often prescribed to help control high blood pressure, the CDC says 1 in 4 Americans with uncontrolled high blood pressure do not take their medication regularly.

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Richard Lenti

Richard Lenti has worked as a news writer for the last 20 years at various television stations in Los Angeles. He is a Golden Mike winner and a graduate of California State University, Fresno. With roots in print journalism, Richard is excited to be “published” once again; having people read his work as opposed to having it read to them. As a freelance writer his work has appeared in the Easy Reader, L.A. Jazz Scene, Irrigation and Green Industry, and the KCAL 9 Online website.

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