Nearly twice as many people controlled their high blood pressure under a comprehensive program undertaken by medical practices, according to a study published in the Aug. 21 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Medical practices participated in the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Hypertension program from 2001-2009, with the number of high blood pressure patients growing from 350,000 to 653,000 during the study period.

“Globally, high blood pressure is the number one contributor to cardiovascular disease and stroke and controlling it is a persistent problem,” said Donna Arnett, Ph.D., immediate past-president of the American Heart Association. “This study suggests that system-wide programs can result in very high levels of blood pressure control.”

The practices entered information into a tracking database, shared results, followed science-based guidelines and had medical assistants, not just doctors, measure blood pressure. The program also helped patients keep up with medications by recommending a once-a-day combination pill.

The percentage of people who controlled their high blood pressure grew from 44 percent to 80 percent during the study period. Researchers reported that blood pressure control continued to improve even after the study was completed, growing to 87 percent in in 2011. Dr. Arnett said that is “very high.”

Nearly 78 million people in the United States have high blood pressure. Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure typically has no symptoms, but can lead to deadly health consequences such as heart attack, stroke and kidney failure.

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Photo courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.