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Control high blood pressure? Getting there. Prevent it in the first place? Eh...

May 26, 2010 |  4:47 pm

Bloodpressure As a population, we may be slow to grasp the importance of watching our blood pressure, but we can eventually get the message. That's one upshot of a new report assessing U.S. progress in treating and controlling hypertension.

Using data from the ever-mineable National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina found that, among adults with high blood pressure, only 27.3% had it under control in the 1988-94 study period. But that number had risen to 50.1% by the 2007-08 study period.

Way to go, hypertensives!

That's not to say that rates of hypertension are falling. Rates rose from 23.9% of adults in the 1988-94 study period to 28.5% in 1999 and 2000. But, hey, then they held fairly steady through 2007 and 2008. That's ... something.

Way to go, people who could've become hypertensive and didn't!

The researchers note that the improvements are not, repeat not, because people are exercising and eating right. Ha. They write:

"Healthy lifestyles are an unlikely explanation for lower [blood pressure] and better control among patients with hypertension, because eating patterns became less "DASH-like" and obesity increased over time."

Think, instead, "blood pressure medication." 

The improvements in the overall blood pressure picture can be traced in no small part to increased awareness and treatment, the researchers conclude. Some groups need more assistance in getting the awareness message; others need more help in getting the treatment message:

"Data suggest that initiatives to improve [blood pressure] control among Hispanic individuals should emphasize screening and referral to a primary care medical home, whereas more emphasis on treatment effectiveness is needed for black individuals."

The report offers much data -- by ethnicity, age, gender ... and you can peruse it all. Here's the full blood-pressure study, published in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Assn.

Oh, and here's more information on the aforementioned DASH diet; a guide from Mayo Clinic on choosing blood pressure medication; and our recent, helpful-if-I-do-say-so-myself advice on controlling blood pressure.

-- Tami Dennis

Photo credit: Los Angeles Times