NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Doctors sometimes miss the opportunity to better control their patients' high blood pressure, according to a new study.
Researchers found that of 7,153 people with uncontrolled high blood pressure participating in a U.S. survey, only about 20 percent were prescribed new medications during doctors' visits.
High blood pressure is a reading of 140/90 and above.
Uncontrolled high blood pressure has been linked to - among other things - heart attacks, strokes and aneurysms.
"It's a missed opportunity, and we're not trying to blame the doctor," said Dr. Raman Ravi Khanna, the study's lead author from the University of California, San Francisco.
"We want to grab those moments when we can."
National guidelines recommend people with high blood pressure be prescribed medication and those already on medication get a new one if their condition worsens.
For the new study, Khanna and his colleagues wanted to see whether doctors were following those recommendations. They also wanted to know which factors influenced doctors' prescribing decisions.
The researchers reviewed data on 16,473 doctors' visits recorded in the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey between 2005 and 2009 for patients already diagnosed with high blood pressure.
Some of them may have been on blood pressure medicine and others were likely told to bring their blood pressure under control by other means, including lifestyle changes, Khanna explained.
Whether they were on medication or not, more than 7,000 of those patients still had blood pressure that was too high. But only about 20 percent of their doctors' visits ended with patients being prescribed a new blood pressure medicine.
People with very high blood pressure and those who specifically came to the doctor for the condition were more likely to get a new prescription. Meanwhile, those already on blood pressure medicine were less likely get a new one.
The researchers pointed out in the Archives of Internal Medicine that they couldn't tell whether doctors increased the dose of their patients' current blood pressure medicine instead of prescribing a new one, however.
Across the U.S. about one in three adults has high blood pressure, according to the National Institutes of Health - and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says about 36 million Americans' conditions are uncontrolled.
Khanna told Reuters Health it's important that patients remind doctors about their blood pressure.
"If you have uncontrolled blood pressure, you should always bring it up to your doctor, because it's one of the most common problems we deal with. In fact, it's so common that we often forget about it," he said.
SOURCE: bit.ly/UW4JjO Archives of Internal Medicine, online September 24, 2012.