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Urban, low-income adults with high blood pressure are reasonably knowledgeable about their condition

More than one in four U.S. adults suffer from high blood pressure (hypertension), with blacks suffering higher rates and more hypertension-related complications such as heart problems, kidney failure, and stroke. A new study of predominantly low-income black women with hypertension found that nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of this group were fairly knowledgeable about their condition. Those less likely to be knowledgeable about hypertension (answering 7 or fewer of 10 questions correctly) were those who were 60 years or older, had less than a high school education, or were diagnosed more recently.

Individuals who were uncomfortable asking their doctors questions also had lower scores, but this was not significant. A Tulane University team administered a 10-item test on hypertension to 296 adults with the condition at 1 urban clinic. Overall, 65 percent of the patients answered 8 or more of the 10 questions correctly. However, 40 percent incorrectly thought that 130/80 mm Hg was normal blood pressure (a blood pressure of less than 120/80 mm Hg is considered normal), and did not know that hypertension was a lifelong condition. Nearly 25 percent did not know that hypertension can cause kidney problems, despite the prevalence of kidney problems among blacks with hypertension.

If patients were aware that hypertension reduced their life expectancy, they may be more vigilant about taking their medication, note the researchers. They suggest that knowing the gaps in hypertension knowledge among this group could be used to target educational programs. Their study was supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS11834).

More details are in "Hypertension knowledge among patients from an urban clinic," by Shane Sanne, B.S., Paul Muntner, Ph.D., Lumie Kawasaki, M.D., and others, in the Winter 2008 Ethnicity & Disease 18, pp. 42-47.

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