Over 50 percent of people with high blood pressure unaware they have condition

November 12, 2008

Results from the European study IMMIDIET, published today in the Journal of Hypertension, official journal of the European Society of Hypertension and International Society of Hypertension, confirm that elevated blood pressure, an important risk factor for cardiovascular disease, is still a looming problem in Europe. Many hypertensive Europeans do not know about their condition, so they are not taking action against it. Even among those who have been diagnosed, more than half have their blood pressure not under optimal control.

The IMMIDIET study examined 1,604 citizens from three geographical areas: south-west London in England, Limburg in Belgium and Abruzzo in Italy. Thanks to a close cooperation with General Practitioners of these areas, all participants underwent a comprehensive medical examination, including blood pressure measurement, and answered a questionnaire about their lifestyle and perception of health status.

Overall, 24% of the population appeared to be hypertensive. "We found – says Simona Costanzo, leading author of the study, from the Research Laboratories at Catholic University of Campobasso – that awareness was far from optimal. A significant proportion of patients (56%) did not know they had high blood pressure". However, awareness is only one side of the coin. Even when people know about their condition, and are under treatment, things do not go so well. Only less than half of diagnosed patients, according to the IMMIDIET results, have their blood pressure falling within desired internationally recognized levels.

Then researchers looked at differences between the three regions, and some surprises arose. In the past, it was accepted that the risk of cardiovascular disease was higher in northern than in southern Europe. It was the so-called "gradient". IMMIDIET showed that this picture is changing. Average blood pressure in English people was lower than in Belgians and Italians. When we consider that also smoking showed the same trend, we could argue that the more we go south, the higher the cardiovascular risk. "It is something like turning upside down the old gradient" Simona Costanzo comments.

"This inversion is surprising, – says Licia Iacoviello, head of the Genetics and Environmental Epidemiology Laboratory at the Catholic University of Campobasso and Coordinator of the IMMIDIET study – it may reflect the ongoing changes of lifestyle habits. Paradoxically, northern European countries, where cardiovascular risk was higher than in Italy, are now modifying their habits, getting closer to the ancient Italian food and lifestyle culture, thus living a healthier life. On the contrary, in Italy traditional habits are being lost, and we may be observing the negative effects on health".

European women appeared to do better than men. In all three areas studied, they were more aware of hypertension than men and, when on treatment, they tended to have lower blood pressure levels, a sign of a better management of the condition. According to the European team of Authors, this could be related, in part, to the fact that women have more frequent contacts with healthcare practitioners.

"Looking at these data and at other studies conducted in recent years – Licia Iacoviello says – we fear Europe is facing a dangerous situation. Hypertension is a critical causative factor for serious diseases like myocardial infarction (heart attacks) and stroke, but it is still grossly underestimated. So we need urgent and intensive initiatives in this field, introducing new and effective strategies in controlling this threat".

"All National healthcare systems – says Francesco Cappuccio, Cephalon Chair of Cardiovascular Medicine & Epidemiology at the University of Warwick Medical School, UK, and member of the IMMIDIET study – should do more to help control hypertension. Although in England the management of high blood pressure is better as compared to some other countries, in part due to the incentives that General Practitioners receive to achieve blood pressure targets, we still have too many patients not adequately treated and the incidence of hypertension is rising still. This is a call for an integrated action not only on better management of hypertension but on the implementation of widespread strategies for the prevention of it in the first place".

Source: Catholic University

Explore further: New treatments for drug resistant high blood pressure

Related Stories

New treatments for drug resistant high blood pressure

January 22, 2018
High blood pressure – also called hypertension – is a dangerous condition which, if left untreated, can lead to stroke, kidney problems and/or heart attack.

Astronauts' circulation woes can cue better health for all

January 19, 2018
A little more time on the treadmill may be just what the doctor ordered for Canada's astronauts battling microgravity's effects on circulation, according to one Western researcher.

Women who have gestational diabetes in pregnancy are at higher risk of future health issues

January 16, 2018
Women who have gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) during pregnancy have a higher than usual risk of developing type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and ischemic heart disease in the future, according to new research led by the ...

Analysis shows lack of evidence that wearable biosensors improve patient outcomes

January 16, 2018
Wearable biosensors have grown increasingly popular as many people use them in wristbands or watches to count steps or track sleep. But there is not enough proof that these devices are improving patient outcomes such as weight ...

Blood pressure control best achieved with a multilevel, multicomponent approach

December 25, 2017
Current clinical guidelines recommend lower blood pressure targets for the general population, yet control remains elusive for most. A new study suggests that patients with hypertension can best achieve blood pressure control ...

Research shows importance of second pediatric blood-pressure screening

January 12, 2018
Nearly one-quarter of children and teens who had their blood pressure screened at a primary care appointment showed a reading in the hypertensive range, but less than half of those readings could be confirmed after the blood ...

Recommended for you

Nanoparticle vaccine offers universal protection against influenza A viruses, study finds

January 24, 2018
Researchers have developed a universal vaccine to combat influenza A viruses that produces long-lasting immunity in mice and protects them against the limitations of seasonal flu vaccines, according to a study led by Georgia ...

Leprosy's drug resistance and origin revealed by genome analysis

January 24, 2018
Leprosy is an infectious disease with gruesome symptoms. It damages the skin, peripheral nerves, the upper respiratory tract, and the eyes. Despite being curable with multidrug therapy, leprosy still persists in many developing ...

A new theory on reducing cardiovascular disease risk in binge drinkers

January 23, 2018
A new study shows that binge drinkers have increased levels of a biomarker molecule—microRNA-21—that may contribute to poor vascular function.

Flu infection study increases understanding of natural immunity

January 23, 2018
People with higher levels of antibodies against the stem portion of the influenza virus hemagglutinin (HA) protein have less viral shedding when they get the flu, but do not have fewer or less severe signs of illness, according ...

New long-acting approach for malaria therapy developed

January 22, 2018
A new study, published in Nature Communications, conducted by the University of Liverpool and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine highlights a new 'long acting' medicine for the prevention of malaria.

Virus shown to be likely cause of mystery polio-like illness

January 22, 2018
A major review by UNSW researchers has identified strong evidence that a virus called Enterovirus D68 is the cause of a mystery polio-like illness that has paralysed children in the US, Canada and Europe.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.