Bethesda, Md. (Black PR Wire) – After nearly 15 years on an upward trend, awareness among Americans about high blood pressure and how to control and treat it is now on the decline, according to a new study.

Even with the help of blood pressure medications, some groups, including older adults, are less likely than they were in earlier years to adequately control their blood pressure, the research found.

The study, funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health, appeared online on Sept. 9 in JAMA. The authors say the trend could make longstanding efforts to fight heart disease and stroke – leading causes of death in the United States – even more challenging.

High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is a major risk factor for heart disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 108 million Americans have hypertension, with a blood pressure reading of 130/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or higher or are taking medication for their blood pressure, but only 27 million are considered to have their blood pressure under control, despite it being a condition that can be managed.

SCIENTIFIC CHALLENGE “Reversing this decline is important because we don’t want to lose public health achievements built over prior decades,” said Lawrence Fine, M.D., chief of the Clinical Applications and Prevention Branch at NHLBI and a study co-author.

“It is a challenge for the scientific community to investigate the causes of this unexpected downward trend, but developing more effective strategies to reverse and substantially improve blood pressure control is critical for the health of many Americans.”

The study included 18,262 U.S. adults age 18 and older, with high blood pressure. The definition of hypertension at the time of the study was defined by a blood pressure reading of 140/90 mm Hg or higher or by treating the condition with blood pressure medications. Participants with a blood pressure reading of less than 140/90 mm Hg were categorized as having controlled blood pressure.

With data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) taken between1999 and 2018, the study authors looked at 20year trends in high blood pressure awareness and treatment and blood pressure control. The CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics conducts NHANES.

At the beginning of the survey, participants had their blood pressure measured three times, then averaged. Participants answered yes or no when asked if their doctors told them they had high blood pressure and if they currently took prescribed medication for high blood pressure.