A recent study by the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) reports that high blood pressure continues to be one of the nation’s biggest health issues.  The cost to treat those with high blood pressure is up to $131 billion a year, or approximately $2,000 in health care expenses for each patient. These expenses rank high blood pressure as one of the more expensive forms of heart disease to treat, according to the American Heart Association (news.heart.org).

The study appeared in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Heart Association.  “More people are being diagnosed with hypertension despite better access to health care and medical advancements,” said Dr. Elizabeth Kirkland, the study’s lead author and assistant professor of internal medicine at MUSC in Charleston.  “There’s a tremendous need to be aware of this problem and the risks – costs, health outcomes, and diseases.”

The study authors believe their research actually underestimates the true costs of treating high blood pressure because it used an older definition for hypertension.  In November 2017 the AHA and the American College of Cardiology revised the threshold standard for hypertension to 130/80 from the previous standard of 140/90.

“if we redo this analysis under the new definition, we would expect the cost on society to be much higher because the prevalence of high blood pressure is much higher,” Kirkland said.  “Bringing younger healthier patients into the mix may bring individual costs down, if they make treatment or lifestyle changes early.  Because the impact is unclear, we didn’t feel confident estimating new costs.”

High blood pressure or hypertension is known as the “silent killer” and is considered a significant public health problem.  Since there are often no health symptoms, almost half of all Americans who have hypertension do not treat it to keep their blood pressure under control.  The lack of treatment for high blood pressure may lead to heart attacks, stroke and kidney disease.  The AHA estimates that the number of deaths from high blood pressure reached about 430,000 Americans in 2015.  The new study examined a large database which included almost 225,000 individuals over a 12-year period.

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