Health Team

Study: More people getting high blood pressure under control

Posted May 25, 2010 7:06 p.m. EDT
Updated May 25, 2010 7:21 p.m. EDT

High blood pressure is a major risk for developing heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular problems. A new report in the Journal of the American Medical Association proves more people are taking control of their health to prevent high blood pressure.

The study defined high blood pressure as a reading of 140/90 or higher. The ideal reading is below that mark. About half of all adult Americans fall on either side of that line, according to the study.

"That also means that we have roughly one out of two people with high blood pressure that do not have it under control,” said the lead study author, Dr. Brent Egan of the Medical University of South Carolina.

Two people getting their high blood pressure under control are Sandra Atkinson and Janice Freeman. Both women had an inherited tendency toward the condition. But improvements in diet and exercise, along with medication, brought it under control.

“My quality of life is fabulous and that's the way I want to keep it,” Atkinson said.

"I'm very strict about taking my medication, and I also monitor my blood pressure from time to time,” Freeman said.

More people are aware of their blood pressure but only about 20 percent of people with high blood pressure know they are over the recommended reading, the study found.

Researchers studied blood pressure levels in almost 43,000 adults over 10 years. People ages 19 to 39 were less likely to have their condition under control than older adults.

“The other thing that we saw is that Hispanic individuals were also less likely to have their blood pressure controlled,” Egan said.

The study also found blood pressure control, which reduces problems that high blood pressure can cause, improved 18 percent from 2000 to 2008.

“Ideally, we would achieve control in everyone, but even if we treat and reduce the blood pressure without getting the control, there is still a significant benefit,” Egan said.

Researchers also said a federal initiative called Healthy People 2010 had a goal to reduce the number of people with high blood pressure to 16 percent of the population. Currently, that number is in the 30 percent range.