Young adults with high blood pressure less likely to be diagnosed during doctor visits

Published on November 7, 2012 at 1:53 AM · No Comments

Adults 18-24 years old with high blood pressure were 28 percent less likely to be diagnosed during doctor visits than those 60 and older, according to findings presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2012.

"These young patients come to the clinic and their blood pressure is recorded," said Heather Johnson, M.D., lead researcher of the study. "They have high blood pressure, but there's no documentation of a diagnosis. We wanted to find out why."

Researchers examined electronic health records of 13,593 men and women who were at least 18 years old. All had visited their doctor at least twice within the previous three years in an outpatient, non-urgent care setting, and had multiple elevated blood pressures that met guideline criteria for a hypertension diagnosis.

Yet, after four years of visiting their doctors and accounting for other factors:

  • 67 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds remained undiagnosed compared to 54 percent of people 60 and older.
  • 65 percent of 25- to 31-year-olds were undiagnosed.
  • 59 percent of 32- to 39-year-olds were still living with undiagnosed high blood pressure.

Furthermore, young adults were less likely to be diagnosed if they actively smoked and if they had a mild stage of hypertension, said Johnson, an assistant professor of medicine in the division of cardiology at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison.

Conversely, a high blood pressure diagnosis was more likely for minorities, young adults with diabetes, severe high blood pressure, and who made more clinic visits to primary care and specialty providers.

Family practice physicians were less likely to diagnose high blood pressure than Internal Medicine physicians; however, female doctors were more likely to diagnose high blood pressure in young adults.

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