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High Blood Pressure: Often Recognized, But Still Poorly Controlled

Knowing your blood pressure is just the beginning.
Knowing your blood pressure is just the beginning.

After decades of encouragement, Americans are getting their blood pressure checked more often.

And there's a little more good news, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most adults with high blood pressure are being treated these days.

But, and you knew there had to be a but, more than half of all Americans with hypertension — about 36 million people, all told — still haven't got it under control.

And the large number of people whose blood pressure remains at 140/90, the starting point for hypertension, or above spells trouble.

High blood pressure quadruples the risk of a death from stroke and triples it for heart disease. So the CDC is pushing for more action.

Previously, public health officials and groups in the private sector unveiled Million Hearts, a campaign to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. One plank of that plan is to improve the proportion of people with controlled blood pressure to 65 percent from 46 percent.

So what will it take to achieve a goal like that? The CDC has some ideas.

Among them:

  • Take the blood pressure medicines you've been prescribed.
  • Lose weight and stop smoking.
  • Measure and keep track of your blood pressure between doctor visits.
  • Doctors can help by prescribing 90-day supplies of drugs and choosing drugs with lower copays.

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    Scott Hensley edits stories about health, biomedical research and pharmaceuticals for NPR's Science desk. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he has led the desk's reporting on the development of vaccines against the coronavirus.
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