Benefits of Controlling High Blood Pressure Significantly Outweigh Challenges

June 6, 2000

— If High Blood Pressure Were Controlled, Average Life Expectancy Could Soar —

WASHINGTON, June 5 /PRNewswire/ — According to the American Heart Association, if all cardiovascular disease were eliminated, the American life expectancy would jump an average of seven years! Often overlooked, high blood pressure is the most common cardiovascular disease in the U.S. and a leading contributor to the first (heart disease) and third (stroke) causes of death.

Despite these alarming statistics, only one out of four people with high blood pressure is treated to the recommended goal of below 140/90 mm Hg, with even worse control rates in older people and African Americans.

“Keeping blood pressure under control can seem burdensome to patients,” says Nancy Houston Miller, R.N., B.S.N., Associate Director, Stanford Cardiac Rehabilitation Program and Adjunct Clinical Assistant Professor, University of California, San Francisco School of Nursing. “Yet it may be one of the most important things people can do to improve their long-term health.”

More than 50 million Americans have high blood pressure, including more than half of those over the age of 65. High blood pressure contributes to many dangerous conditions, such as kidney failure and congestive heart failure in addition to heart attack and stroke. But because high blood pressure may have non-specific symptoms that can go unnoticed, people who have it are less likely to devote the time and effort necessary to lower their blood pressure and keep it below 140/90 mm Hg.

“The test to measure high blood pressure is simple, the lifestyle changes are not always complicated, and the benefits of lowering high blood pressure are enormous,” said Ms. Houston Miller, who is an Advisory Council member of “From Awareness to Action: The National Alliance to Reach Blood Pressure Goals.” “The challenge for patients is to sustain medication and lifestyle regimens over time, and the support and commitment of the full healthcare provider team is essential for long-term success.”

Tips to help keep high blood pressure under control:

— Make sure blood pressure is under 140/90 mm Hg, or lower for people
with certain complications, such as diabetes. Ask your health care provider the right questions:

1. What are both my numbers?

2. Are they at goal?

3. What would be the benefits if they were at goal?

4. How can I get them to goal?

— Take your blood pressure medicine every day as directed by your doctor.

To help you remember, try keeping it on the nightstand next to your
bed, or with your toothbrush as a daily reminder.

— To maximize the beneficial effects of diet on blood pressure, avoid
high intakes of salt (sodium, more common in some processed foods and
snack foods) and make sure to eat enough fruits, vegetables, and fat-
free and low-fat dairy products.

— Regular exercise helps control weight and lower blood pressure. Don’t
be afraid to be active — exercise should definitely be part of your
daily routine. Besides helping to reduce your risk of heart attack,
it can also help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. In
addition, weight loss helps lower blood pressure.

— Excessive alcohol intake (more than two ounces of pure alcohol or two
drinks per day) raises blood pressure in some people and should be
restricted.

“Nurses and allied healthcare professionals play an important role in helping people with high blood pressure reach target goals,” says Ms. Houston Miller. “Inspiring action on the part of patients to apply themselves to get their blood pressure to goal requires a team effort involving the patient, physician, and nurse. “From Awareness to Action” will encourage all healthcare professionals to become stakeholders in a patient’s successful management of his or her high blood pressure.”

The overall mission of “From Awareness to Action” is to reduce death and disability caused by complications from high blood pressure. Alliance members are passionate about the need to reach blood pressure goals and committed to developing a series of national and grassroots programs that will not only raise awareness about the consequences of high blood pressure, but also actively promote meaningful patient-provider dialogue to positively impact blood pressure control rates. For more information on “From Awareness to Action: The National Alliance to Reach Blood Pressure Goals,” visit www.fromatoa.org.