Nearly half of about 67 million Americans with high blood pressure are not effectively treating their condition and face a high risk of a heart attack or stroke, a U.S. health official said on Tuesday.
About 36 million people have uncontrolled high blood pressure, a condition caused when too much force is exerted by blood as it is pumped through the body and moves against vessel walls, according to a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Tuesday.
“The bottom line is … most of those in this country who have (high blood pressure) don’t have their numbers under control, and because of that we have a very high burden of disease,” said Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC.
High blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease and stroke, contributes to nearly 1,000 deaths a day and $131 billion in annual direct healthcare costs, Frieden said.
The condition is the second most serious public health issue. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the country, according to the CDC.
Frieden said patients with high blood pressure are either not receiving a correct combination or dosage of medication or are not keeping up with their medication.
Some doctors are not warning patients who have had multiple readings of high-blood pressure, a problem Frieden said could be solved by better systems to track patients.
Many Women Struggle With Uncontrolled Blood Pressure – July 16, 2008
Nearly one in three Americans suffers from high blood pressure – more than 73 million adults.
But half of them – women – face unique challenges in controlling their blood pressure.
For instance, women with high blood pressure are more likely to be obese and have high cholesterol levels. They’re also less likely than men to meet target goals for their blood pressure. And they’re also less likely than men to receive medications such as aspirin, blood pressure-lowering drugs or cholesterol-lowering drugs, compared to men, recent research found.
These findings add greater urgency to the American Heart Association’s ongoing “Go Red for Women” campaign, which seeks to change the perception that high blood pressure and heart disease are “male” health threats.
Most people don’t know that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of American women – as well as men. An estimated 480,000 women die of cardiovascular disease every year, more than the total number of cardiovascular disease-related deaths in men, or the next four causes of death combined, according to the heart association.
Unchecked high blood pressure – also known as hypertension – can produce terrible systemic damage and disease. It can lead to a heart attack, stroke, heart failure, kidney damage, blindness and a host of other medical problems.
Despite this, a large segment of women aren’t adequately addressing their hypertension.
“Only about 60 percent of women with high blood pressure are having it controlled,” said Dr. Nieca Goldberg, medical director of New York University Medical Center’s Women’s Heart Program, and a spokeswoman for the “Go Red for Women” campaign. “When you bring your blood pressure down, you cut your stroke risk in half and risk of heart attack by 25 percent.”
Part of the problem is that women tend to suffer from an increased systolic rate, said Dr. Daniel Jones, president of the American Heart Association.
Blood pressure is the force of the blood against artery walls when the heart beats and then rests. Measurement renders two numbers. Systolic pressure, the top number, is recorded when your heart beats and forces blood out to the body. Diastolic pressure is the bottom number, and is the minimum pressure that occurs when the heart relaxes between beats. The ideal blood pressure is below 120/80 mmHg, according to the heart association.
Of the 36 million Americans with uncontrolled hypertension, about 14 million were not aware of their condition and about 22 million either chose not to take medication or were on inadequate treatment, according to the report, which surveyed adults between 2003 and 2010.
“I think there’s clearly a lot of room for improvement,” Frieden said, noting that controlling blood pressure often means taking multiple medications daily for the rest of one’s life.
On the horizon, researchers are developing a vaccine that could prove successful in moderating blood pressure. It works by inhibiting angiotensin II, a molecule that constricts blood vessels and raises blood pressure.
“The potential attractiveness of a vaccine is it might be a more convenient way to manage high blood pressure in some people,” Jones said.
Researchers at the 2007 American Heart Association annual meeting discussed some early encouraging results, although Jones cautioned that the vaccine is still years away from use in patients. “People should not be anticipating this is something that would be clinically available anytime in the near future,” he said. “It’s not anywhere close to being tested by the FDA for use.”
Until then, following a healthy lifestyle and sticking with a good medication are a woman’s – and man’s – best bet for beating back high blood pressure.
“We know that a diet that is low in sodium and high in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products is very useful in both preventing and treating high blood pressure,” Jones said. “I always like to remind people of the importance of simple things in lifestyle that can make a difference.”
High blood pressure can be prevented through diet, exercise and taking drugs such as beta blockers and ACE inhibitors – which widen arteries. Lowering blood pressure can cut the risk of stroke, heart attack, heart failure and other conditions.
Risk factors include obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, and chronic difficulties such as diabetes, kidney disease and high cholesterol.
Causes of Uncontrolled Hypertension
Common causes of uncontrolled hypertension include inadequate access to health care; failure to follow doctors’ orders, often linked to an inability to afford medications; high blood pressure resistant to treatment; and age-related inattention to self care.
Breakdown by Gender
A 2008 report in “Circulation” estimated that 22 percent of adult women and 17 percent of adult men suffer from uncontrolled hypertension.
Majid Ezzati, the study’s lead author, reported that the rate of uncontrolled hypertension was highest in the states of Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas, as well as the District of Columbia.
By Lily Kuo