Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is one of the nation’s leading causes of death, responsible for roughly one in six deaths among adults annually. Nearly one in three adults has hypertension, which places huge economic demands on the health care system, estimated at $73.4 billion in direct and indirect costs in 2009 alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which leads the federal government’s efforts to reduce the impact of hypertension, asked the IOM to identify high-priority areas on which public health organizations and professionals should focus in order to accelerate progress in hypertension reduction and control.
In this report, the IOM recommends that the CDC as well as state and local health jurisdictions focus on population-based strategies that can reach large numbers of people and improve the well-being of entire communities. Behavioral and lifestyle interventions--reducing sodium intake, increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables, and increasing physical activity--are among the best examples. The report also highlights the need to improve providers’ adherence to the treatment guidelines for hypertension, especially in the elderly population, and to encourage patients to take medication consistently by reducing or eliminating the cost of antihypertensive medication.