Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is one of the classic chronic diseases which account for substantial health care costs. Untreated, it can lead to strokes, cardiovascular events and other health problems. A New England Journal of Medicine article provides a good summary of the current state of the art in hypertension treatment. (NEJM Article) There are a variety of pharmaceutical treatments which are effective and have acceptable side effect profiles. These therapeutic agents provide excellent control for most patients.
Unfortunately, as the article details, more than a quarter of Americans with hypertension are not aware that they have the condition, about 40% are not being treated and 65% do not have their blood pressure within acceptable limits. More widespread screening will help identify those persons with high blood pressure or at risk for developing it. Lowering the salt in our diets and losing weight can delay onset or help lower existing hypertension. This is not a difficult problem to identify or treat and yet we are probably collectively incurring much higher health care costs than we would if we could find and treat a higher percentage of those with the condition.