Many Have High Blood Pressure, Few Have it Under Control

The vast majority of people at risk for kidney and heart problems have not reduced their blood pressure to healthy levels

Among people at risk for kidney and cardiovascular problems, only one in 10 have blood pressure that falls within a healthy range, according to a new study published in the March issue of the American Journal of Medicine. The report is released in conjunction with the observance of National Kidney Month during March and World Kidney Day on March 13 in recognition of the worldwide significance of kidney disease as a public health problem.

"It's unacceptable that barely 10% of people most at risk of kidney and cardiovascular problems have gotten their blood pressure under control," says lead author George Bakris, Director, Hypertensive Diseases Unit at University of Chicago. "Studies show that high blood pressure is a leading cause of kidney disease, and hastens its progression to kidney failure, a life-threatening condition. These findings represent a call to action to people at risk and their families."

Approximately 7.1 million deaths worldwide are due to high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Indeed, the most common causes of chronic kidney disease (CKD) - in which the kidneys are less able to perform vital functions that help maintain overall health, including filtering wastes and excess fluids from the blood - are diabetes and high blood pressure, which can also speed up the progression of CKD.

The 10,813 people who participated in the study were included in the National Kidney Foundation's (NKF's) Kidney Early Evaluation Program (KEEP), designed to raise awareness among people most at risk of CKD. People at increased risk include those with diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and a family history of kidney failure. Minority groups and older adults are also at increased risk.

The researchers found that 86% of study participants had high blood pressure, defined as blood pressure of at least 130/80 mmHg. The rate of hypertension increased with severity of CKD - for instance, more than 95% of people in stages 4-5 CKD had high blood pressure.

However, only 13.2% of people had their blood pressure under control, a lower figure than that seen in a previous nationwide survey from 1999-2003. Men, people who were obese, and non-Hispanic blacks were less likely to have blood pressure that fell within healthy levels.

Encouragingly, 80% of people surveyed had been diagnosed with hypertension by a physician.

"The finding that 8 out of 10 people at risk are being diagnosed with high blood pressure by a physician is encouraging," continues Bakris who is also a member of the National Kidney Foundation's KEEP Steering Committee. "The next step is to make sure that people use that diagnosis to their advantage, and take control of their health to get their blood pressure down to healthy levels."

The National Kidney Foundation will offer free kidney screenings throughout the month of March through its Kidney Early Evaluation Program (KEEP) for people at risk for CKD. On World Kidney Day, March 13, NKF will offer screenings in more than 20 cities across the country on. For locations and schedules, click here.