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High Blood Pressure Prevalence, Use of Medications on the Rise

MANAGED CARE May 2013. © MediMedia USA
News & Commentary

High Blood Pressure Prevalence, Use of Medications on the Rise

More people report that they have high blood pressure and are taking medications to combat it, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, but there are still far too many people who are untreated. “From 2005 to 2009, the prevalence of self-reported hypertension among U.S. adults increased from 25.8 percent to 28.3 percent,” states the study in the CDC publication Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. For people who said they had hypertension, “use of antihypertensive medications increased from 61.1 percent to 62.6 percent.”

In the states, rates of self-reported hypertension ranged from 20.9 percent to 35.9 percent in 2009. Prevalence was highest in the South.

The number that most worries CDC officials is the 62.6 percent who are taking their medications. Though that increase comes from a greater awareness of the problem, the awareness hasn’t penetrated deeply enough, and there’s a good chance that the study understates the situation.

The study’s corresponding contributor, Jing Fang, notes that data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, which does not include blood pressure measurement, “couldn’t tell us how many of those taking medication had their blood pressure under control. So we referred to another study using the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES) that shows that about half of hypertension patients had their blood pressure under control.”

Which means, of course, that half don’t.

How antihypertension medications are used might give clinician executives pause. For instance, for adults 18 and older the prevalence of hypertension did not significantly increase between 1999 and 2002 though “the use of antihypertensive medication and control of hypertension showed significant increases.”

The survey, conducted since 1984, asks, “Have you ever been told by a doctor, nurse, or other health professional that you have high blood pressure?”

If someone says “yes,” the next question is: “Are you currently taking medicine for your high blood pressure?”

Answers varied from 21.1 percent in Colorado to 33.5 percent in Mississippi in 2005. In 2009, it ranged from 20.9 percent in Minnesota to 35.9 percent in Mississippi.

The study’s authors admit to some possible flaws in their findings. First, obviously, the data are self-reported and have not been independently verified. Then, only noninstitutionalized people with landline telephones were surveyed, yet a quarter of households had only cellular phones.

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