U.S. young adults with hypertension often not given medication

Feb. 19, 2014 at 12:21 AM
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MADISON, Wis., Feb. 19 (UPI) -- One-in-10 U.S. adults ages 18 to 39 has hypertension, but primary care doctors are not quick to prescribe anti-hypertensive drugs to them, researchers say.

Study leader Heather Johnson of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health said hypertension -- high blood pressure -- in young adulthood increases the risk of future cardiovascular events and medical treatment is advised if a patient's blood pressure isn't lowered via lifestyle modifications. Previous studies showed medication can help control hypertension among young adults better and faster than is the case for older adults.

Johnson's research team compared rates and predictors of when young, middle-age and older adults who made regular primary care visits are put onto anti-hypertensive medication. They analyzed the medical records of more than 10,000 adults who visited a large, Midwestern practice from 2008 to 2011.

The study, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, found doctors were 44 percent slower in starting young adults ages 18 to 39 on hypertension medication than they were for people age 60 and older. Men had a 36 percent slower rate of first receiving anti-hypertensive medication than women, while white patients were also less likely to receive such treatment.

The research team said the latter may be the case because of primary care providers who are responding to the known increased risk of co-morbidities with hypertension among minorities, especially African-Americans. However, patients with diabetes of all ages were started on relevant treatment 56 percent faster than others, the study said.

"Even with regular primary care contact and continued elevated blood pressure, young adults had slower rates of anti-hypertensive medication initiation than middle-age and older adults," Johnson said in a statement. "In the young adult group, males, patients with mild hypertension, and white patients had a slower rate of medication initiation, while young adults with Medicaid and more clinic visits had faster rates."

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