What patients don't know about BP, stroke: You might be surprised

Sara Berg, MS , News Editor

High blood pressure is a leading cause of heart attack and stroke, yet nearly half of high-risk U.S. adults responding to a recent survey evince little concern about these potentially deadly health outcomes. This sobering reality creates an ongoing need for physicians and their health care teams to further help Americans understand the importance of hypertension control.

The AMA has developed online tools and resources created using the latest evidence-based information to support physicians to help manage their patients’ high BP. These resources are available to all physicians and health systems as part of Target: BP™, a national initiative co-led by the AMA and American Heart Association (AHA).

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An online survey was distributed to 1,001 adults with 38% of participants having a diagnosis of high BP. Of those with that diagnosis, 91% had their blood pressure checked in the past six months. However, only 38% of those diagnosed with high BP said they measured it in the past week, according to a survey conducted by the AMA and AHA as part of a national consumer high blood pressure campaign with the Ad Council.

More than 100 million American adults have high BP. The survey found that 40% of Americans do not know what their BP is, while 64% cannot identify an elevated or hypertensive blood-pressure number.

Here are some other nuggets from the AMA-AHA survey that you should know.

Many patients with high BP don’t think medication will help. One-third of those surveyed took medication for high BP and 80% with high blood pressure took medication for their condition. When asked if taking medication will keep their BP in a healthy range, surprisingly only 57% with a high BP diagnosis agreed.

Patients are not worried about high BP. Twenty-one percent of adults “worry a great deal or quite a bit” about having high blood pressure. For those who have been diagnosed with high BP, 35% worry about having this condition. And when asked if they worry about the consequences of having high BP, 35% of Americans were concerned about having a heart attack. About one-third were worried about having a stroke.

However, 55% of those with high BP do worry they will have a heart attack and 56% that they will have a stroke. Educational materials are available through Target: BP to help patients better understand the consequences of high BP.

High-BP management is not a priority. The survey found that only 10% of adults say that high-BP management is their top priority. Other priorities include:

  • Losing weight: 18%
  • Reducing stress: 17%
  • Exercising: 17%
  • Getting enough sleep: 15%
  • Reducing salt, sugar and fat in diet: 11%
  • Eating more fruits and vegetables: 8%
  • Managing cholesterol: 4%

While slightly higher, still only 22% of those diagnosed with high BP say that management is their top priority.

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Many also don’t remember their BP numbers. When asked, “Do you know what your BP numbers were last time they were checked?” 42% did not know. Unfortunately, the response rate was even lower for those with diagnosed high BP, with 27% saying they did not know what their blood pressure was the last time it was checked. These figures show the need for greater patient engagement in care.

Most patients don’t know which systolic or diastolic BP numbers are considered high. Survey participants were asked, “Do you know what top and bottom numbers in a BP reading are considered to be high?” Only 36% said they knew what a high top and bottom BP number is. However, participants with high BP had slightly better knowledge, with 44% knowing what a high top and bottom number was. Target: BP offers a chart to help your patients better understand their BP numbers and which blood-pressure category they fall within.