Lifestyle education helps young adults manage blood pressure
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is on the rise in U.S. young adults. Based on a 2011 study from the National Institutes of Health, an estimated 19 percent of young adults (24 to 32 years old) have high blood pressure, up from 4 percent from an earlier study.
This disease is one of the leading causes of preventable death and could be better controlled with simple lifestyle education. New research reveals, however, that opportunities in doctor’s offices are being overlooked to help young adults manage this condition.
The findings come from a recent study published online in the November issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine. The study reports that 60 percent of the young men and women between the ages of 18 and 39 years old who have hypertension are not good at controlling their blood pressure. Lifestyle education delivered in the doctor’s office, such as weight loss information, dietary changes and exercise tips, however, could be a critical first step to help control the disease.
Lead study researcher and cardiologist Dr. Heather Johnson said in a statement that only one in every two young adults with hypertension receives guidance from a health care provider within a year of being diagnosed. Dr. Johnson is a faculty member of University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison.
Researchers examined the electronic health records of 500 young adults with hypertension to determine what factors determine the likelihood of this type of education being provided in the doctor’s office.
Results from the research found that only 55 percent received documented lifestyle education within one year. The most frequent topic addressed was exercise, followed by hints on how to stop smoking. Only one-quarter of the patients received any advice on how to lower blood pressure through diet changes.
Dr. Johnson concluded that finding out when and how patients are likely to receive advice can help target interventions that improve health education and control high blood pressure in young adults.
“The development of incident hypertension is an important ‘teachable moment’ to educate about the adoption and maintenance of lifestyle modifications,” said Dr. Johnson.
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