Controlling High Blood Pressure to Curb a Public Health Crisis

September 5, 2012

USA Today reports on a new study released by the Centers for Disease Control, “Getting Blood Pressure Under Control.” Efforts have been successful at educating the public about the risks of high blood pressure; however, people’s ability to successfully manage the condition is a much different story. Currently, 67 million Americans have high blood pressure, and more than half – 36 million – do not have it under control. 

Dr. Tom Freiden, Director of the CDC, compared high blood pressure to tobacco, calling it, “‘public health enemy No. 2, behind tobacco.’” He continued that “nothing [would] save more lives than getting blood pressure under control.” High blood pressure causes approximately 1000 deaths a day throughout the country and is a major risk factor for the first and fourth leading causes of death in the U.S. – heart disease and stroke. In addition to the personal toll that high blood pressure is taking, the direct costs of this condition cost the country $131 billion per year.

Freiden noted that though “medicine for high blood pressure works for nearly every patient,” those treated but not in control of their blood pressure either are not taking their medications or have a treatment plan that isn’t ideal. Healthy behaviors can also help manage blood pressure.  Steps include controlling stress, avoiding tobacco, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy, low sodium diet.

Follow through on an appropriate treatment plan, including adopting healthy behaviors, is the critical step that is missing for the 36 million Americans with uncontrolled high blood pressure. Raising awareness of both the problem and solutions and engaging healthcare providers and the public health community to help are needed to move the needle.