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High Blood Pressure Often Missed in Young Adults: Study

TUESDAY, Nov. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Younger adults with high blood pressure are less likely than older adults with elevated blood pressure (hypertension) to be diagnosed during doctor visits, a new study says.

Researchers examined the health records of more than 13,000 men and women aged 18 and older in the United States who had made at least two routine visits to their doctors within the previous few years and met the criteria for a diagnosis of high blood pressure.

After four years of visiting their doctors, 54 percent of people 60 and older remained undiagnosed, compared with 67 percent of those aged 18 to 24, 65 percent of those aged 25 to 31 and 59 percent of those aged 32 to 39.

The researchers also found that young adults were less likely to be diagnosed with high blood pressure if they smoked and if they had a mild stage of hypertension. A high blood pressure diagnosis was more likely for minorities, for young adults with diabetes or severe high blood pressure, and those who made more visits to doctors.

Family doctors were less likely to diagnose high blood pressure than internal medicine doctors, and female doctors were more likely than male doctors to diagnose high blood pressure in young adults, according to the study, which was scheduled for Tuesday presentation at the American Heart Association annual meeting in Los Angeles.

Hypertension is a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke. About 29 percent of U.S. adults have high blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association. Although the condition is more common in older people, about 11 percent of men and 7 percent of women aged 20 to 34 have high blood pressure.

"We know that once high blood pressure is diagnosed and young adults receive the treatment they need, they can achieve pretty high control rates," lead researcher Dr. Heather Johnson, assistant professor of medicine in the cardiology division at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, said in an association news release.

Many patient, doctor and health care system factors play a role in the reduced likelihood that younger adults with high blood pressure will receive a diagnosis, Johnson said. She said she hopes the study findings will "guide both patient and provider to make elevated blood pressure one of the key things to focus on during the visit."

Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about high blood pressure.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, Nov. 6, 2012

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