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TILDA Study on High Blood Pressure Finds High Prevalence, Low Awareness and Treatment Disparities

Research led by Dr. Catriona Murphy (HRB ICE Research Fellow) of TILDA and newly published in the Journal of Public Health, estimates that 64% of the over 50s in Ireland have high blood pressure; equivalent to 797,000 people in this age group. High blood pressure is a leading cause of stroke, heart disease, kidney disease and premature death and disability.

Other key findings from this study include:

  • 45% of those with high blood pressure were unaware of their condition. Lack of awareness was highest in men and in the younger age groups.
  • In those with high blood pressure, 59% were taking medication to reduce it. Older adults with no medical card were significantly less likely to be on medication to control their blood pressure, compared to those who did have a medical card.
  • Almost half of those who were on medication to control hypertension did not have their blood pressure controlled to normal levels.

Commenting on the study, lead author, Dr Catriona Murphy said, “The findings of this study are of concern as high blood pressure is usually a silent condition with no symptoms until it has caused damage to organs such as the heart or kidneys. The study results are consistent with this silent profile. The level of awareness we found in this Irish study is a combination of individual lack of awareness of the condition and the absence of a comprehensive system to detect this important risk factor in the community.”

Principal Investigator of TILDA, Professor Rose Anne Kenny commented “The high prevalence of high blood pressure is a major public health challenge for Irish society and requires a population wide focus on healthier lifestyles including weight management, regular physical activity, smoking cessation and restriction of salt and alcohol intake. This study calls for action to implement a structured programme in primary care to improve prevention, detection and management of high blood pressure in Ireland.”

Dr Angie Brown Medical Director of the Irish Heart Foundation and study collaborator said “This important research highlights what we (the Irish Heart Foundation) see on our Blood pressure road show and during our health assessments. High blood pressure is often unrecognised and even if diagnosed sometimes not adequately treated. It is crucial that we raise awareness of this silent killer so individuals know their own blood pressure, the importance of lifestyle modification and adherence to medical therapy if appropriate. The good news is this is an entirely treatable risk factor.”

Co-Authors include Prof PM. Kearney UCC, Prof E. Shelley HSE, Prof T. Fahey RCSI, C. Dooley TCD and Prof RA. Kenny TCD

Link: Full Paper

Link: TCD Press Release