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Hypertension questionnaire exposes knowledge gaps in New Orleans

High blood pressure (hypertension) is a chronic disease that, left unchecked, can lead to kidney failure, stroke, or heart attack. Yet one-third of adults with high blood pressure in New Orleans have little knowledge about their condition, according to a new study from the Tulane University School of Medicine.

From October 2004 to August 2005, 296 patients with high blood pressure treated at the Medical Center of Louisiana answered a 10-item telephone questionnaire designed to assess their knowledge of their condition. Of the participants, 89 percent were black, 79 percent were female, 75 percent had incomes of less than $1,000 a month, and 62 percent were high school graduates. Researchers used three categories to describe participants' knowledge of hypertension: low (7 or fewer questions answered correctly), medium (8 questions correct), and high (9 or 10 questions correct).

Sixty-five percent of participants answered eight or more questions correctly. Those who scored in the low category tended to be older than 60 (46.5 percent), have a recent diagnosis of high blood pressure (55.6 percent), and not be high school graduates (43.9 percent). More than a third (40.2 percent) of participants could not identify a reading for normal blood pressure. More than half (58.1 percent) were unaware that high blood pressure does not cause cancer. Finally, many participants (39.5 percent) did not know that high blood pressure is a lifelong condition.

The authors state that a patient's understanding of how to manage high blood pressure is critical because of the self-management the condition entails, including taking daily medication and reducing salt in the diet. Identifying where knowledge gaps exist can assist medical professionals in crafting targeted education programs for high-risk populations. This study was funded in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS11834).

See "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 and Disease 18, pp. 42-47.

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