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Intensive care key to lowering blood pressure

Large study on hypertension management has shown regular visits with GPs and practice nurses can lower blood pressure in patients

People have a greater chance of lowering their blood pressure if they see their GPs more often and take higher doses of medication, a study has found.

The more aggressive approach to treating hypertension helped 63 per cent of patients reduce their blood pressure to normal levels compared to 54 per cent of patients receiving traditional care.

Researchers at the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute tested the intensive treatment plan in a randomised trial of 2300 people with high blood pressure, a condition which affects one in three adults.

Those who received the intensive treatment, known as VIPER-BP (Valsartan Intensified Primary care Reduction of Blood Pressure) had their blood pressure monitored every four weeks by their GPs.

The doctors used a special software package to develop individual treatment plans and blood pressure targets.

They also prescribed higher doses of medication when needed to help lower blood pressure.

The results were compared to patients who received traditional care involving fewer check-ups and medication adjustments.

After six months, 36 per cent of the VIPER-BP patients had hit their blood pressure targets compared to 28 per cent of patients receiving usual care.

The VIPER-BP patients also reduced their chance of suffering a heart attack or stroke by 25 per cent.

Lead researcher and head of preventative health at Baker IDI Professor Simon Stewart said the more intensive care program was a commonsense approach to blood pressure management.

"But unfortunately we don't see that generally in primary care," he said.

"If GPs and practice nurses have the time to sit down and profile patients properly and structure visits, VIPER-BP shows you can make differences to blood pressure."

High blood pressure is one of the most common reasons Australians visit their GP and is the largest contributor to cardiovascular disease.

The Heart Foundation's director of clinical issues Dr Robert Grenfell said the study's findings suggested that regular GP checks helped reinforce to patients the importance of taking medication.

"We know a lot of people don't take their medication as prescribed," he said.

"So the idea of seeing someone every four weeks who is asking how you're medication is going may have an impact.

"The regular GP visits may have also reinforced to the patients the need to take other steps to improve their lifestyle, such as losing weight and doing more exercise."

Stewart will present the study's findings to the High Blood Pressure Research Council of Australia's conference in Perth on Wednesday.


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