Many People Don't Take Their High Blood Pressure Meds: Study

Failure to follow doctors' orders leads to unnecessary and costly treatment, research shows
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MONDAY, March 6, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Only 20 percent of patients seeking care for stubborn high blood pressure take all the medicine they're supposed to, a new Dutch study finds.

"Another 20 percent are not taking any of their blood pressure medications," study senior author Dr. Peter Blankestijn said in an American Heart Association news release.

As a result, patients sought care for a condition they could have addressed by simply following their doctor's orders, the findings suggested.

"People mistakenly thought to have resistant hypertension -- which is high blood pressure despite taking three or more medications -- end up seeing specialists and undergoing extra tests because we don't understand why they are so difficult to treat," said Blankestijn. He is a professor of nephrology and hypertension at the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands.

The researchers didn't set out to determine whether people with resistant high blood pressure were following doctors' prescriptions. Instead, the investigators wanted to know if those patients could benefit from a treatment in which nerves between the brain and the kidney are destroyed by radio waves or ultrasound.

The study looked at 95 patients who were randomly assigned to undergo the procedure and 44 who only continued their medications. The researchers concluded the procedure wasn't better than normal treatment for resistant high blood pressure. But following doctors' orders is key, the study authors stressed.

"Adherence to medication greatly affects the ability to assess the value of another treatment, so researchers need to measure adherence and do what they can to improve it," Blankestijn explained.

Patients must tell their doctor if they don't want to take their medicine for any reason, he added. "You and your doctor can discuss options for changing the type of pill or the dose if needed. There are many effective blood pressure pills and the majority of patients with high blood pressure can be successfully treated," he said.

High blood pressure increases a person's risk of heart attack, stroke and other health issues. And although this study was conducted in the Netherlands, the results likely apply to patients in the United States, according to the researchers.

The study was published March 6 in the journal Hypertension.

More information

For more about high blood pressure, visit the American Heart Association.

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