World checks its blood pressure

Four million people and counting have checked their blood pressure in the U.S. in an awareness campaign meant to draw attention to high blood pressure and save lives.

The World Hypertension League challenged people worldwide to get their blood pressures checked from April 17 until World Hypertension Day on May 17 to increase global awareness about the dangers.

The group had hoped to screen 3 million people, but is expecting to far surpass that goal with just the American Heart Association and its network of partners reporting more than 4 million checks on Tuesday.

“[Four] million blood pressure checks in one month reveals a tremendous opportunity to better control high blood pressure and save lives. With our dedicated partners and concerted effort, we could improve health and save lives all over the world,” said Eduardo Sanchez, M.D., M.P.H., the American Heart Association’s chief medical officer for prevention.

Worldwide, hypertension is a driving force in more than 14 million worldwide deaths, annually, among adults ages 30 to 70, according to World Hypertension League estimates.

That threat needs to be taken seriously, said AHA President Mark A. Creager, M.D.

“Of the 80 million Americans with high blood pressure, only half [in the U.S.] have their condition controlled to a healthy level,” he said.

The campaign hopes to raise awareness about the damage high blood pressure causes. Knowing blood pressure numbers also can help people avoid stroke, heart attack and other cardiovascular conditions, said Sanchez.

The numbers rolled in through several collaborators:

  • The AHA gathered 15,527 blood pressure checks through a health fair, a Twitter Poll, online efforts and Heart 360, a web-based tracking program.
  • Chicago-based higi reported 3,035,019 blood pressure checks through its higi health stations, of which there are more than 10,000 in the U.S. Those screenings found 55,364 people with a systolic blood pressure higher than 180 or diastolic blood pressure higher than 120, a condition which requires immediate medical attention, according to the American Heart Association. More than 987,000 of the BP screenings were in the hypertensive and hypertensive crisis range. And nearly 1.2 million were pre-hypertensive with screenings between 120 and 139 systolic (upper number) or between 80 and 89 diastolic (lower number).

“Our collective call to action is now to help individuals in hypertensive emergency who contribute to costly hospitalizations or preventable deaths,” said Dr. Khan Siddiqui, higi’s chief medical officer and chief technology officer.

  • PharmaSmart, which provides internet-ready, clinically validated blood pressure screening kiosks in pharmacies, clinics and worksites, reported 791,165 blood pressure checks, 21.8 percent of which were in the normal range.
  • Withings, a maker of health smart products and apps, reported conducting 186,413 blood pressure checks by May 6.

Editor’s Note: This story was written when high blood pressure was considered 140/90 or higher. New guidelines released in November 2017 changed the definition to 130/80.