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Prevention Experts Urge High Blood Pressure Screening for All Adults Age 18 and Older

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Press Release Date: July 14, 2003

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force today reaffirmed its recommendation that clinicians measure blood pressure of all adults who are 18 and older because of good evidence that early detection and treatment of high blood pressure can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The Task Force is the leading independent panel of private-sector experts in prevention and primary care and is sponsored by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The recommendations, published in the August 1, 2003, issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, update those made by the Task Force in 1996.

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, affects approximately one-quarter of the adult population of the United States, or roughly 50 million people. It can cause heart attacks, heart failure, stroke, kidney failure, and other serious problems. However, one-third of patients with high blood pressure are unaware that they have the disease because they lack warning signs and symptoms and have not been screened.

"High blood pressure is highly treatable, and screening is critically important because it can detect the disease usually in an early stage when it is generally easier to control," said Task Force Chair, Alfred O. Berg, M.D., who is also Chair of the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle.

The Task Force also looked at blood pressure measurement in children and adolescents but found insufficient evidence that it accurately identifies those who have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD) and insufficient evidence that treating it decreases the incidence of CVD.

The Task Force grades the strength of the evidence from "A" (strongly recommends), "B" (recommends), "C" (no recommendation for or against), "D" (recommends against) or "I" (insufficient evidence to recommend for or against screening). The Task Force strongly recommends that clinicians measure blood pressure of all adults, an "A" recommendation. The Task Force found insufficient evidence to recommend for or against blood pressure screening of children and adolescents, an "I" recommendation.

The Task Force conducts rigorous, impartial assessments of all the scientific evidence for a broad range of preventive services. Its recommendations are considered the gold standard for clinical preventive services. The Task Force based its conclusions on an AHRQ-sponsored report prepared by a team led by Stacey Sheridan, M.D., of the RTI International-University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Evidence-based Practice Center in Research Triangle Park, N.C.

The high blood pressure recommendations and materials for clinicians are available on AHRQ's Web site. Previous Task Force recommendations, summaries of the evidence, easy-to-read fact sheets explaining the recommendations, and related materials are available from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse by calling (800) 358-9295 or sending an E-mail to Clinical information also is available from the National Guideline Clearinghouse™.

For more information, please contact AHRQ Public Affairs: Bob Isquith, (301) 427-1539 (; Farah Englert (301) 427-1865 (


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