November 23rd, 2012
Undiagnosed Hypertension in Younger Adults
Dr. Johnson answers CardioExchange editors’ questions about her research group’s retrospective study of undiagnosed hypertension in younger adults. It was presented at the American Heart Association conference earlier this month.
The cohort comprised 30,000 adults who met guideline criteria for hypertension and regularly received primary care. Patients were excluded if they had a previous diagnosis of hypertension or had been prescribed antihypertensive medication. Emergency room blood pressure readings were not counted.
After at least 2 years of follow-up, patients age 18 to 39 were less likely to receive a diagnosis for their hypertension than were patients age 60 or older. After adjustment for patient demographics, comorbidities, and provider factors, hazard ratios for a hypertension diagnosis were as follows:
18- to 24-year-olds: HR, 0.35; 95% CI, 0.29-0.42
25- to 31-year-olds: HR, 0.39; 95% 0.35-0.43
32- to 39-year-olds: HR 0.51; 95% CI, 0.47-0.55
The likelihood of receiving a hypertension diagnosis was especially low among young adults whose primary spoken language was not English, but also (surprisingly) among young adults of white race. Female providers were more likely than male providers to diagnose hypertension in young adults.
THE AUTHOR RESPONDS
How do you know that these diagnoses of hypertension were truly “missed” versus ignored? That distinction would change how clinicians address the problem.
I agree – that distinction does change how the problem is addressed. Our research does not answer the question of “missed” versus ignored elevated blood pressure. Additional research that includes qualitative methodology is needed to determine whether elevated blood pressures were missed or ignored.
Why do you suspect that having a male healthcare provider was associated with a missed diagnosis?
One possible reason that having a male healthcare provider was associated with a missed hypertension diagnosis among young adults comes from previously published studies showing that male and female providers differ in patient-provider communication. Further research is needed to understand how this difference may affect young adults’ awareness, understanding, and diagnosis of hypertension.
Were providers just as likely to miss all grades of hypertension severity?
Providers were less likely to diagnose milder levels of hypertension.
How do you suggest that we decrease these rates of missed diagnoses? Would you tackle it on a patient/public level or on a physician/provider level?
The primary implication of our study is that it emphasizes the need for interventions to be tailored to young adults with elevated blood pressure, in order to improve hypertension diagnosis rates. In addition, our research demonstrates that multiple factors contribute to low hypertension diagnosis rates in this age group. The most effective interventions are likely to be system-level interventions that address multiple components and not just focus on providers.
Offer your thoughts about this study by Dr. Johnson and her colleagues.