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Hypertension, Cholesterol Duo Undertreated

Lipid Problems Often Undetected or Poorly Treated in People With High Blood Pressure
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WebMD Health News

June 28, 2004 -- If you have high blood pressure, the chances are good you also have cholesterol or other lipid problems, suggests new research. And to make matters worse, these "compounding" risks of heart attack and stroke are probably being treated inadequately or not at all.

In the study, researchers show that many of the 2,300 people they evaluated with high blood pressure also had abnormal blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides which further aggravates their risk of heart disease and stroke.

But the real kicker: In people with this double whammy, nine in 10 were either untreated or undertreated for their cholesterol problem.

Not Average Patients

"This is really quite surprising because the people we studied are not like the average patient with high blood pressure," says senior study researcher Stephen Turner, MD, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

"These are people who are well aware of their condition; in fact, they were recruited for this study because they all have a strong family history of hypertension," he tells WebMD. "By virtue of the fact they were more conscious of their health, we thought we'd see the same attention to their lipids, but that wasn't the case."

Who Should Be Blamed?

Are the patients or their doctors to blame?

"Probably it's a combination of both," says Turner, who specializes in treating hypertension. While his study didn't explore the "whys," there are several possible explanations: These people may have focused on what they considered their primary health risk -- high blood pressure, or they may not have followed their doctor's orders to take cholesterol-lowering medications, or they may have only visited specialists who concentrated only on treating hypertension without looking at other conditions.

"But it seems as though the awareness of problems with abnormal lipids is not reaching society and even doctors at the level of awareness in treating and controlling of high blood pressure," says Turner.

What does this mean to you?

"If you have high blood pressure, have your cholesterol checked regularly -- and vice versa," he advises. "There is also evidence that the same factors that cause bad lipids may also cause high blood pressure. Having both doesn't just add to your risk of cardiovascular disease - it multiplies the risk."

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