Vidyya Medical News Service
Volume 6 Issue 76 Published - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 16-Mar-2004 Next Update - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 17-Mar-2004
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High blood pressure patients misinformed, not controlled

People at the greatest risk of heart disease and who are actively managing their high blood pressure may have a false sense of security about their health status, a new 800-patient survey released today by the Rippe Lifestyle Institute indicates.

According to national guidelines, a person with blood pressure of 160/100 mm Hg or above has four times the risk of heart attack or stroke than someone with a blood pressure of less than 120/80 mm Hg. Seventeen percent (138) of survey respondents had blood pressures of 160/100 mm Hg or higher. Disturbingly, 76 percent of these patients reported their physicians had not warned them that their blood pressure was well above an acceptable level and about 50 percent of this group believed they are in good or excellent health.

"People in this study don't understand that blood pressure is much more than just a number -- it is a measure of a person's risk of heart attack and stroke. The higher the number, the greater the danger," said Dr. James M. Rippe, founder and director of the Rippe Lifestyle Institute and associate professor of medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine. "We need to do more than tell people to take their medication and check their blood pressure. We have to teach them what their blood pressure means and how to lower it successfully. For example, research shows most patients will require at least two medications to reach a healthy blood pressure level."

All participants in this study were taking blood pressure medication and 75 percent of them reported checking their blood pressure outside the doctor's office. Despite their motivation and best efforts, 47 percent had readings of 140/90 mm Hg or higher, exceeding what national guidelines define as high blood pressure.

Patients Not Receiving Recommended Care

Other data collected from this survey showed that 54 percent of those with blood pressure levels of 160/100 mm Hg or higher were only taking one medication. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends two medications for individuals at these high levels. In addition, nearly 50 percent of respondents with a blood pressure of 140/90 mm Hg or higher reported that their blood pressure was inadequately controlled, and yet only about 30 percent of these patients discussed switching or adding a blood pressure medication with their physician.

"Without the right information and tools about high blood pressure even motivated patients remain at risk," said Dr. Rippe. "We need to provide people with straightforward and practical information about the dangers of high blood pressure and effective treatment options."

To encourage patients taking medication to better control their blood pressure and raise awareness that lowering blood pressure decreases the risk of heart attack, stroke and kidney failure, Dr. Rippe has teamed up with former NFL quarterback Joe Montana on an education campaign called Take The Pressure Off ... With Better Blood Pressure Control. The campaign and the Rippe Lifestyle Institute survey are sponsored by Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation.

"In Take The Pressure Off ... With Better Blood Pressure Control, we educate people about the three pillars of high blood pressure control," said Dr. Rippe. "Eating healthy and getting more physical activity are two of these pillars. The third, establishing a dialogue with your physician and if necessary taking the right combination of drugs, is the most important pillar because, without medication, most will not achieve blood pressure control."

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