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CDC: Poor Blood Pressure Control Puts Five Million Older Americans at Risk

Agency calls on health care systems to pitch in

Approximately five million Medicare Part D enrollees 65 years of age and older are not taking their blood pressure medications properly, increasing their risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and death, according to a new Vital Signs report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

An estimated 70% of U.S. adults 65 years of age and older have high blood pressure (140/90 mm Hg or greater), but nearly half do not have their blood pressure under control. The report outlines the dangers of high blood pressure and the important role health care systems play in helping patients take blood pressure medications as directed.

The report analyzes data from more than 18.5 million people enrolled in Medicare Advantage or Original Medicare with Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage during 2014. Researchers at the CDC and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services looked at disparities in beneficiary adherence rates based on factors such as geography, race/ethnicity, gender, income status, and medication class.

Key findings include:

  • Approximately five million Medicare Part D enrollees 65 years of age or older are not taking their blood pressure medications as directed. This means they may skip doses or stop taking their medications altogether.
  • The percentage of Medicare Part D enrollees not taking their blood pressure medications is higher among certain racial/ethnic groups (i.e., American Indian/Alaska Native, black, and Hispanic). This contributes to the higher risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, and death in these groups.
  • Southern U.S. states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have the highest overall rates of not taking blood pressure medications as directed. North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Minnesota have the highest rates of people who do take their medications as directed.

Health care systems—including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, community health workers, practices, hospitals, and insurers—can play a key role in improving blood pressure control nationwide, according to the CDC. The agency encourages health care systems to ensure that people understand the importance of blood pressure control and how taking blood pressure medications as directed, along with a healthy diet and exercise, reduces the risk of heart disease, kidney disease, and stroke.

Source: CDC; September 13, 2016.

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