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Older Hypertension Patients Less Likely to Get Lifestyle Advice

Doctors more often tell younger people to change diet, get more exercise, study found

THURSDAY, Nov. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Americans over 60 with high blood pressure are less likely than younger patients to receive guidance from their doctors on how lifestyle changes can lower their blood pressure, a new study finds.

A team at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill analyzed data from a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey of almost 28,500 adults with hypertension.

They also found that patients who aren't overweight or obese are less likely to receive lifestyle modification advice than those ages 18-39, compared to those who are overweight or obese.

Of all the patients in the study, 90.3 percent reported receiving some type of lifestyle modification advice -- such as recommendations on diet or exercise -- from their doctors. Of those, 74.6 percent received exercise advice, 69.3 percent were told to reduce salt intake, 61.9 percent were advised to change their eating habits, and 43.5 percent were told to reduce alcohol intake.

When the researchers took a closer look, they found disparities among different groups of patients. For example, 71.2 percent of those ages 40-59 received eating habit advice, compared to 64.9 percent of those ages 18-39 and 53.7 percent of those 60 and older. Among patients ages 40-59, 48.9 percent were told to reduce their alcohol intake, compared to 43.4 percent of those ages 18-39 and 35.1 percent of patients 60 and older.

Other findings:

  • Only 45.5 percent of healthy weight or underweight patients received eating habit advice, compared to 59.5 percent of those who were overweight, and 75 percent of those who were obese.
  • Of those taking antihypertensive medications, 63.2 percent received eating habit advice, and 82.6 percent received exercise advice. Among patients not taking antihypertensive medications, 56.9 percent received eating habit advice, and 65.9 percent received exercise advice.

The study is published in the November issue of The Journal of Clinical Hypertension.

"Lifestyle modification advice should always be the doctor's first step in treating a patient with high blood pressure, and this advice should not be abandoned at any point, in any group of hypertension patients," lead author Dr. Anthony J. Viera, an assistant professor in the department of family medicine, said in a prepared statement.

More information

The American Heart Association offers tips to control high blood pressure.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, news release, November 2007

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