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Study Shows Promising Results in Reducing Risk of Stroke, Heart Attack

  • Carol Pearson

Controlling blood pressure is a global issue as people live longer and lifestyles change. In developed countries, despite access to doctors and medication, many people don't have their blood pressure under control. In the U.S., almost half of those with high blood pressure are not able to control it. A new study shows promising results in helping people live healthier lives.

High blood pressure increases the risk for heart attack and stroke. That's why health experts the world over are concerned about the increasing number of people with high blood pressure, even in developing countries.

Smoking, drinking alcohol, being sedentary are risk factors for hypertension, commonly called high blood pressure. But there are also other risks. High blood pressure is a genetic trait that tends to run in families.

It runs in Pat Buchholz's family.

“I never smoked, I never drank, and I exercised," she said. "So that helps some but it did not prevent blood pressure problems from finding me.”

Buchholz took part in a study of 450 people with uncontrolled high blood pressure. One group received usual care, meaning they had their blood pressure checked whenever they saw their doctors.

The other group monitored their blood pressure at home almost daily for a year. Their results were sent electronically to a pharmacist.

“The pharmacist then was able to review the readings and make adjustments over the telephone, if needed, to the patient’s treatment regimen,” said Dr. Karen Margolis, of HealthPartners Institute for Education and Research in Minneapolis who led the study.

More than twice as many patients in the self-monitoring group had their blood pressure under control a year later compared to the other group. And, Margolis says, the improvement continued even after the study ended.

“Seventy percent of the patients in the tele-monitoring group kept their blood pressure control at 18 months, six months after the program ended,” she said.

Buchholz says working with her pharmacist made a huge difference in improving her health.

"I learned more, I was able to listen better and retain what she told me… and I trusted her,” she said.

The researchers say the intervention helped patients become more likely to take their medication, get more involved in their own health care and communicate better with their health care team.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.