10 million adults have high blood pressure that is linked to drugs and inactivity

CHICAGO — More than 10 million adults in the United States—more than one in five — are taking medication with at least one known risk factor for high blood pressure, according to new research.

That’s more than double the number from 20 years ago.

“It’s very troubling,” said Doshan Wadhwa, assistant professor of clinical medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine and lead author of the study published in JAMA Internal Medicine. “It seems to be a primary problem for a lot of people, and we’re not getting the medication to everyone we should.”

The findings are part of a larger national population-based registry study that defines high blood pressure as high blood pressure, which is 120/80 or higher. Researchers looked at medical records of 17.5 million adults between 1999 and 2013 and found that 31 percent had hypertension, defined as systolic blood pressure, which is the top number, greater than 140.

Of those with hypertension, nearly 10 million were taking medications that were associated with a possible effect on blood pressure, such as potassium, beta-blockers, blood pressure-lowering medications and drugs designed to reduce potassium levels. More than three-quarters of those with high blood pressure in the database had seen a physician at least once in the past 12 months, according to the study.

Researchers said the findings illustrate a need for more research on the interactions among blood pressure-lowering medications and their potential health effects. Experts say the growing rate of use of sodium restriction medication, or SSRIs, to reduce blood pressure may also explain the findings. Most SSRIs block the ability of the brain to naturally release salt, which contributes to high blood pressure.

“This has been an area of significant interest to many experts in recent years,” wrote two experts in an editorial accompanying the study. “It has not yet been examined with as much rigor as it should have been.”

Another study released Thursday found that nearly 13 percent of U.S. women, and 18 percent of U.S. men, were vitamin D deficient, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco found.

Scientists have long suspected that inadequate vitamin D may increase the risk of developing hypertension, or high blood pressure. For this study, the researchers analyzed test results and vitamin D concentrations in participants in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, an ongoing study that’s funded by the National Institutes of Health.

They found that nearly 60 percent of study participants had low vitamin D, defined as less than 20 nanograms per milliliter. On average, U.S. women and men were about 18 nanograms per milliliter less than recommended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Women were 1.8 times more likely to be vitamin D deficient than men. Researchers said a woman’s risk of deficiency was approximately twice as high as a man’s risk.

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