Study: Regular doctor visits tied to better blood pressure control

Nov. 7th, 2014—People who see their doctor at least twice a year are more likely to have their blood pressure under control than those who see a doctor once a year or less, according to research in the American Heart Association‘s journal Circulation.

It’s important for all adults to keep an eye on their blood pressure because high blood pressure, or hypertension, is commonly tied to heart attack, stroke and congestive heart failure.

About the study

The study’s main goal was to track the progress of Healthy People 2020—a government initiative that, among other things, has set a goal of reducing the prevalence of hypertension to 26.9 percent by 2020.

Researchers used information about high blood pressure prevalence, treatment and outcomes that was gathered between 1999 and 2012 as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Throughout this time, the percentage of adults reporting hypertension remained roughly the same at 30.1 percent to 30.8 percent. That’s about 3 percent higher than the goal for 2020.

A secondary aim of the study was to find ways to help identify things people could do to help reach the Healthy People 2020 goals.

Compared to those who visited a doctor once a year or less, people who visited a doctor more than twice a year were 3.2 times more likely to have blood pressure readings that were lower than 140/90 mm Hg—the level that marks high blood pressure. That remained true even after researchers made allowances for diabetes, body mass index, smoking and other factors.

The study suggested that adults who were unaware they had hypertension generally visited a doctor less often than those who did know they had high blood pressure. Researchers concluded that individuals who were made aware of their hypertension had a better chance of treating and controlling high blood pressure.

Other factors that appeared to improve a person’s ability to control high blood pressure included access to health insurance and being on a treatment plan for high cholesterol.

To learn more, you can read the abstract at Circulation‘s website.

The take-home message
As the research suggests, adults can better control their blood pressure by taking an active role in their blood pressure control—and they can start by visiting their doctor regularly.

Regular checks are just part of blood pressure management. Other strategies include:

  • Eating a healthy, low-sodium diet that includes plenty of vegetables and fruit
  • Following an exercise plan
  • Losing weight if you are overweight or obese
  • Not smoking

Some people also need medication if lifestyle changes like these aren’t enough.

Taking these steps to control blood pressure can help reduce the risk of many serious health issues. When blood pressure is consistently high, it’s linked to significant health risks. According to the American Heart Association, high blood pressure is present in:

  • 69 percent of people who have a first heart attack
  • 77 percent of those who have a first stroke
  • 74 percent of people who have congestive heart failure

High blood pressure usually has no symptoms, so talk with your doctor and have your blood pressure checked. If it’s too high, ask what you can do to get it under control.

 

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