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Broker News | Vol. 7, No. 15 | July 27, 2012
Broker News | Vol. 7, No. 15 | July 27, 2012

Managing High Blood Pressure - Information and Tips

Most Finger Lakes adults diagnosed with high blood pressure follow recommended care, but many don’t

While many Finger Lakes adults diagnosed with high blood pressure take steps to control the condition, thousands are putting their health at risk by failing to do what they can to manage it, according to a new Excellus BlueCross BlueShield report.

“About three out of four of the 250,000 Finger Lakes adults diagnosed with high blood pressure said they changed their diet or increased their physical activity to manage their condition,” said Carl Devore, M.D., associate medical director, Excellus BCBS. “But one in four Finger Lakes adults with the condition is not taking these two crucial steps to improve blood pressure control.

“That’s concerning, because properly managing high blood pressure can add years to your life and help you avoid costly and crippling health problems such as heart attacks, strokes and kidney disease,” he added.

One in three upstate New York adults, or 1.2 million people, was diagnosed with high blood pressure in 2009, according to the most recent data available.

Anyone can develop high blood pressure, but certain factors increase risk. The risk of high blood pressure increases with age and is higher in people who have a family history of the condition. Non-Hispanic blacks and women older than age 65 are also prone to high blood pressure.

Adopting a healthier lifestyle can help adults prevent and control high blood pressure. A healthy lifestyle includes maintaining a healthy weight; minimizing dietary salt, fat and sugar and getting enough potassium; regularly engaging in aerobic physical activity; moderating alcohol; avoiding tobacco; and following your physician’s advice about blood pressure control medication.

The Excellus BCBS report is based on an annual survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the report, many Finger Lakes adults diagnosed with high blood pressure said they made recommended lifestyle changes to manage it:

  • 75 percent to 80 percent said they changed their diet, reduced their salt intake or increased their physical activity.
  • About one-third said they don’t drink alcohol, but 9 percent said they had at least one binge-drinking episode in the 30 days prior to the survey.
  • About four out of five said they take blood pressure control medication as advised by their health care provider.
  • 84 percent said they do not currently smoke, but 16 percent said they currently do.

Obesity is the most important predictor of high blood pressure. In the Finger Lakes region, almost half of adults diagnosed with high blood pressure were obese and one-third were overweight. Only about 18 percent of adults diagnosed with high blood pressure were at a healthy weight.

To tackle this problem, the Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency and the Rochester Business Alliance Health Care Planning Team formed the High Blood Pressure Collaborative under the leadership of Paul Speranza. Fifty organizations, including Excellus BCBS, are working together to help people control their blood pressure.

“We’ve learned that awareness of the problem is not the major barrier to controlling high blood pressure,” said Howard Beckman, M.D., director of innovative strategies for the Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency.  “People need help creating more successful ways to prepare and eat a healthier diet, to exercise, lose weight and regularly take the medicines they need. Our project now works with community groups and employers to provide that assistance, while helping patients in almost 70 primary care practices. That’s about 87,000 people with high blood pressure.”

Blood pressure measures how hard the blood pushes against the walls of your arteries. High blood pressure can damage your blood vessels, which can cause heart and kidney disease. You have high blood pressure, also called hypertension, if your systolic pressure (“top number”) is 140 mm Hg or higher or your diastolic pressure (“bottom number”) is 90 mm Hg or higher.

“The report also found that a health professional’s advice to adopt healthier behaviors can be a powerful motivator for patients,” Devore said. “About 75 percent of upstate New York adults diagnosed with high blood pressure who reported adopting a healthier diet, for example, said they were advised by a health professional to do so.”

Excellus BCBS’s TakeCharge Community Health Report on High Blood Pressure is the second in a series describing what upstate New Yorkers report doing to manage their health conditions proactively. 

View other Fact Sheets, Surveys and Reports.


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