A quarter of Americans have a high blood pressure reading

Written by By Jenna Mansfield, CNN

Nearly one in five adults with hypertension in the United States takes medication that increases blood pressure, new research indicates.

Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the study analyzed data from almost 9,000 adults participating in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 2010-2015, and found that 18.7% of them had either individual or family history of hypertension.

So, what, exactly, were those 18.7% taking medication for?

As one might expect, the medications that increased the risk of hypertension included beta blockers, which inhibit the activity of the aural salt glands, making people feel more comfortable. And the findings indicate that about 13.9% of people taking these medications were taking one of the highest dose classes.

But when considered separately from each other, the higher doses and types of medications that produced the highest mortality and morbidity rates were also found. Those resulted from those with a family history of hypertension taking many of the highest dose doses prescribed to them — the kind of drugs mentioned above.

Additionally, those receiving metformin, which is a diuretic, were seven times more likely to experience a hypertension-related complication than those who did not, according to the study.

The findings were published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Higher doses and older patients

For the study, researchers took into account medical history, sex, age, diabetes, weight, physical activity and prior blood pressure-lowering drugs.

According to the study authors, the high number of people taking these medications suggests that as these medications become more widely available, further research is needed to understand why they were associated with a higher risk of blood pressure-related complications.

Dr. Chenai Shah, who did not work on the study but was an editor of the original, was quoted in JAMA Internal Medicine noting that, “People need to realize that there are side effects. There is a potential harm.”

But he said that results could be concerning if they show hypertension can be prevented. “If we can prevent hypertension, the human potential for the future could be huge,” he told JAMA Internal Medicine.

A healthy diet

Blood pressure is a measure of the force with which the blood flows through the arteries. Excess force can lead to heart attack, stroke, kidney disease and more. It is measured with a blood pressure cuff that is inserted into the groin area. The cuff measures the blood pressure exerted through the artery walls over a period of time.

Blood pressure is elevated on average between 130 and 140 over 90. In an attempt to lower blood pressure, people might take medications such as beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers and fibrates. “Diuretics” — or medications that are meant to open up or increase the flow of blood in the body — are also often recommended. These include those prescribed to lower blood pressure in people with preeclampsia, high blood pressure or kidney disease.

Although these medicines aren’t considered to be effective for individuals who have hypertension and also aren’t planning to conceive or are already pregnant, several medications are available to lower blood pressure in people with other medical problems.

Many are designed to address a wide variety of conditions, including conditions such as hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure, all of which can be managed with a healthy diet and regular exercise.

Shah emphasized that people should only take medications if they’re prescribed by a doctor.

When it comes to finding out whether you’re at risk for hypertension, it’s best to work with a dietitian and fitness specialist, who can advise you on changes to your diet and workout regimens to make you more likely to lose weight and prevent blood pressure from climbing higher.

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