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Doctors Not Catching High Blood Pressure in Young Adults

Not exclusive to older people, high blood pressure also puts young adults at risk of heart attack and stroke, but doctors aren't catching the problem in time.

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A man having his blood pressure taken-- by Jenara Nerenberg

The Gist

High blood pressure is often thought to affect those mainly in their later years of life, but young adults between 18 to 24 years old can also have the condition—and it is likely to go undiagnosed, according to new research released this week at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2012.
High blood pressure puts people at greater risk of heart attack and stroke, and young people aged 18 to 24 are 28 percent less likely to be diagnosed as compared to those over 60. Despite presenting their doctors with elevated blood pressure at the time of doctor visits, no documentation of a diagnosis is made, which is puzzling for researchers. According to the study, 67 percent of those aged 18 to 24 remained undiagnosed, 65 percent of those aged 25 to 31 remain undiagnosed, and 59 percent of those aged 32 to 39 remain undiagnosed.

The Expert Take

"These young patients come to the clinic and their blood pressure is recorded," said lead author Dr. Heather Johnson of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. "They have high blood pressure, but there's no documentation of a diagnosis."

The researchers are advocating that physicians take elevated blood pressure in young adults seriously, even though the condition is more likely to be found in older adults. When it is diagnosed early, young people can avoid the sometimes deadly consequences of uncontrolled 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," said Johnson.

Source and Method

Electronic health records of 13,593 men and women over the age of 18 were examined to assess recorded blood pressure rates and corresponding diagnoses. All had visited their doctors recently and presented high blood pressure multiple times, at levels that would constitute a hypertension diagnosis. The data accounted for a four-year period.

The Takeaway

If you have any indication of high blood pressure, go see your doctor immediately, and be direct about your concerns. Ask what can be done to control your blood pressure and avoid complications. Monitoring your blood pressure—either at home or by visiting the doctor more frequently—may be an important way for you and your doctor to stay on top of the problem. It is also important to be proactive about your health and healthcare. This latest research reinforces the fact that doctors are not perfect, and don't always catch everything right away.

Other Research

2009 study in Environmental Research indicates that environmental noise exposure may contribute to elevated blood pressure in young adults, adding to possible reasons why the condition is found in the young. A 1998 study in Obesity Research found that obesity in young adults also contributes to elevated blood pressure. And a 2009 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggests that lower rates of exercise and physical activity in the young contribute to high blood pressure. All of the above point to lifestyle changes that can be made. However, it is important for doctors to first recognize that their younger patients are also at risk.
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Tags: Awareness , Latest Studies & Research , Public Health & Policy , Treatments

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The Healthline Editorial team writes about the latest health news, policy, and research.

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