; New Report: Most Upstate NY Adults Diagnosed With High Blood Pressure Follow Recommended Care, But Many Don’t
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New Report: Most Upstate NY Adults Diagnosed With High Blood Pressure Follow Recommended Care, But Many Don’t

July 11, 2012

ROCHESTER - While many upstate New York adults diagnosed with high blood pressure take steps to control the condition, thousands are putting their health at risk by failing to do what they can to manage it, according to a new Excellus BlueCross BlueShield report.

“About three out of four of the 1.2 million upstate New York adults diagnosed with high blood pressure said they changed their diet or increased their physical activity to manage their condition,” said Carl Devore, M.D., associate medical director, Excellus BCBS. “But about one in four upstate New York adults with the condition is not taking these two crucial steps to improve blood pressure control.

“That’s concerning, because properly managing high blood pressure can add years to your life and help you avoid costly and crippling health problems such as heart attacks, strokes and kidney disease,” he added.

One in three upstate New York adults was diagnosed with high blood pressure in 2009, according to the most recent data available.

Anyone can develop high blood pressure, but certain factors increase risk. The risk of high blood pressure increases with age and is higher in people who have a family history of the condition. Non-Hispanic blacks and women older than age 65 are also prone to high blood pressure.

Adopting a healthier lifestyle can help adults prevent and control high blood pressure. A healthy lifestyle includes maintaining a healthy weight; minimizing dietary salt, fat and sugar and getting enough potassium; regularly engaging in aerobic physical activity; moderating alcohol; avoiding tobacco; and following your physician’s advice about blood pressure control medication.

The Excellus BCBS report is based on an annual survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the report, many upstate New York adults diagnosed with high blood pressure said they made recommended lifestyle changes to manage it:

  • 70 percent to 80 percent said they changed their diet, reduced their salt intake or increased their physical activity.
  • Two out of five said they don’t drink alcohol, but 10 percent said they had at least one binge-drinking episode in the 30 days prior to the survey.
  • About four out of five said they take blood pressure control medication as advised by their health care provider.
  • 83 percent said they do not currently smoke, but 17 percent said they currently do.

Obesity is the most important predictor of high blood pressure. In upstate New York, 40 percent of adults diagnosed with high blood pressure were obese and about one-third were overweight. Only about 20 percent of adults diagnosed with high blood pressure were at a healthy weight.

Employers, community groups and health organizations throughout upstate New York are tackling this issue. In the Rochester region, for example, the Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency and the Rochester Business Alliance Health Care Planning Team formed the High Blood Pressure Collaborative under the leadership of Paul Speranza. Fifty organizations, including Excellus BCBS, are working together to help people control their blood pressure.

“We’ve learned that awareness of the problem is not the major barrier to controlling high blood pressure,” said Howard Beckman, M.D., director of innovative strategies for the Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency.  “People need help creating more successful ways to prepare and eat a healthier diet, to exercise, lose weight and regularly take the medicines they need. Our project now works with community groups and employers to provide that assistance, while helping patients in almost 70 primary care practices. That’s about 87,000 people with high blood pressure.”

Blood pressure measures how hard the blood pushes against the walls of your arteries. High blood pressure can damage your blood vessels, which can cause heart and kidney disease. You have high blood pressure, also called hypertension, if your systolic pressure (“top number”) is 140 mm Hg or higher or your diastolic pressure (“bottom number”) is 90 mm Hg or higher.

“The report also found that a health professional’s advice to adopt healthier behaviors can be a powerful motivator for patients,” Devore said. “About 75 percent of upstate New York adults diagnosed with high blood pressure who reported adopting a healthier diet, for example, said they were advised by a health professional to do so.”

Excellus BCBS’s TakeCharge Community Health Report on High Blood Pressure is the second in a series describing what upstate New Yorkers report doing to manage their health conditions proactively. The first TakeCharge report focused on diabetes. To view the reports, go to excellusbcbs.com/factsheets.

About Excellus BlueCross BlueShield
Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, a nonprofit independent licensee of the BlueCross BlueShield Association, is part of a family of companies that finances and delivers vital health care services to about 1.9 million people across upstate New York. Excellus BlueCross BlueShield provides access to high-quality, affordable health coverage, including valuable health-related resources that our members use every day, such as cost-saving prescription drug discounts and wellness tracking tools in our Step Up program. To learn more, visit excellusbcbs.com.

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association is a national federation of 36 independent, community-based and locally-operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies that collectively provide healthcare coverage for nearly 105 million members – one-in-three Americans.  For more information on the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association and its member companies, please visit bcbs.com. We encourage you to connect with us on Facebook, check out our videos on YouTube, follow us on Twitter and check out The BCBS Blog, for up-to-date information about BCBSA.