Better communication needed for high blood pressure treatment

Thursday 30 August 2012

Man having blood pressure taken

A team from our Biomedical Research Centre has conducted a study into how patients with high blood pressure see their condition. The findings can be used to help more patients stick to their medication.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects around 1 in 4 adults in the UK and is thought to cause 13% of deaths worldwide.

One reason is that those who have been diagnosed with high blood pressure do not always take their medicine as their doctor has advised. The World Health Organization estimates that 30 - 50% of hypertension patients worldwide do not take their drugs regularly.

Professor Charles Wolfe, director of reseach and development at Guy’s and St Thomas’ and professor of Public Health, and Dr Iain Marshall and Dr Christopher McKevitt from King’s College London, reviewed 53 studies conducted in 16 countries that investigated how patients view high blood pressure and its treatment.

They found that doctors and patients see high blood pressure in different ways. Medically, there are no symptoms of hypertension. However, many patients feel that headaches and dizziness are warning signs; but these are actually caused by stress. Once their symptoms lessen, some patients lower the dosage of their medication without consulting their doctor, or stop taking it completely.

Many patients think stress is the major factor causing hypertension. As they are busy, it can be difficult to find the time to take their medication, eat well and attend appointments. Once the busy and stressful period is over, patients are more likely to stop taking medication.

Professor Wolfe said: “This review helps us understand how and why patients see hypertension differently from their doctors. We hope that these insights will help doctors and patients work together more when making decisions about treatment, ensuring patients continue to take their medication as advised.”

Unexpected finding

Previous research has suggested that patients’ cultural background plays a huge role in whether they stick to their treatment plan, but this review suggests otherwise.

The researchers found few differences between ethnic groups and countries when it came to understanding the disease and how it is treated. Instead, they recommend that the focus should be on better communication between the doctor and the patient.

The review was published in the journal BMJ.

Professor Wolfe is also conducting research into the recovery of stroke patients. He has written an editorial in BMJ, with Professor Anthony Rudd from King’s College London, on research which shows that communication with friends and family after a stroke is as effective as speech therapy.

Last updated: August 2012

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