Five Million Older Americans at Risk of Health Problems Due to Poor Blood Pressure Control

Nearly half of older adults with high blood pressure do not take their blood pressure medications

Five Million Older Americans at Risk of Health Problems Due to Poor Blood Pressure Control
Image: Pixabay
September 15, 2016

At least five million Americans aged 65 years old and older who are enrolled in Medicare Part D are not taking their blood pressure medication correctly, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which puts them at risk of other health problems.

Although seven out of 10 adults aged 65 and older in the U.S. have high blood pressure, almost half are not controlling the problem. This increases their likelihood of experiencing heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and death.

"A simple action can avoid potentially deadly consequences: take your blood pressure medicine as prescribed," said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. "Health care providers can make treatment easier to help people keep their blood pressure controlled."

A report issued by the CDC looked at data gathered from more than 18.5 million people who were enrolled either in Medicare Advantage or Original Medicare with Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage in 2014. Researchers took into account differences in rates of patient adherence based on such factors as location, race/ethnicity, gender, income status, and the class of medication.

The researchers discovered several facts of interest, including:

  • Approximately five million older Americans are not taking their blood pressure medications correctly, meaning either they may skip doses or completely stop taking it.
  • The percentage of people who are engaging in this practice is higher among certain racial/ethnic groups, including Native Americans/Alaska Natives, African Americans, and Hispanics. This is part of the cause for the higher risk among these groups for heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, and death.
  • There are also differences in the locations of the patients. The highest overall rates of patients not taking their medications as directed occurred in states in the southern part of the U.S. , Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. The highest rates of patients who do take their medicines correctly were found in North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

Health care systems—including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, community health workers, practices, hospitals, and insurers—can do much to improve patient blood pressure control across the country. Workers in these systems should make sure that patients understand how important it is to control their blood pressure and how taking their medications as prescribed, in addition to a healthy diet and exercise, can lower their risk of heart disease, kidney disease, and stroke.