Why worry about high blood pressure?

Listen to blood pressure specialist Donald Singer and pharmacist Ejaz Cheema in discussion with Annie Othen on BBC radio about blood pressure, knowing your numbers, tips on blood pressure measurement, why treatment is important, and how doctors, nurses and pharmacists can help to keep people with high blood pressure as healthy as possible.

High blood pressure is a very common preventable cause of stroke, heart attack and other serious diseases. These complications may at best cause disability and are major causes of preventable premature death in the UK and around the world.

For the public in general, the lower the blood pressure the better: most blood pressure-related heart attacks and strokes occur at blood pressure levels within what many still consider to be normal blood pressure.

A healthy lifestyle will help to keep blood pressure and other cardiovascular risk factors in check. Keeping weight in check, regular exercise, minimising salt intake and moderation in alcohol, as well as eating healthy foods rich in fruit and vegetables all help, as does avoiding or stopping smoking.

For people with raised blood pressure, tests are important to rule out underlying causes and to identify other cardiovascular risk factors.

Blood pressure treatment is well-established as effective in helping to prevent or reduce severity of heart attack, stroke and other serious medical problems. However  blood pressure is still poorly controlled in many patients even in the most developed healthcare systems.

One of several reasons for poor blood pressure control is that many patients find it difficult to keep taking their tablets. Surprisingly, in people newly diagnosed with high blood pressure, as many as half may have stopped their tablets by 12 months.

It is as important to understand and address reasons for poor patient adherence with their medicines. These include not being sure of why blood pressure is important, reasons for choice of medicines, and concerns about possible or actual side effects of tablets.

Other contributory factors includes failure of prescribers to follow established national guidelines for choice of tablets and how they should be used singly or in combination. This risks exposing patients to avoidable side effects without achieving effective lowering of blood pressure.

 

An important element in approaches to improving adherence to blood pressure medicines is continuing education of health professionals and patients about high blood pressure and its treatment. Doctors, nurses and pharmacists can all play important roles in this.

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