Antihypertensive scrips questioned in under-35s

Nearly three quarters of adults under the age of 35 taking medication for hypertension may be doing so unnecessarily, according to UK research.

The study also suggests that there is little benefit in GPs treating hypertension in healthy young adults because they are at low risk of cardiovascular complications.

For the study, researchers analysed data taken between 1998-2004 from the Health Surveys for England. They identified 26,057 adults aged 16-34. Of these, 76 adults were found to be taking antihypertensive drugs.

They then used published evidence on the effects of drug treatment to work out what the patients' BPs were likely to have been before they started treatment.

They identified that 71 per cent of those taking antihypertensive drugs had not been hypertensive before they were started on the treatment.

Lead researcher Dr Tom Marshall, from the department of public health and epidemiology at the University of Birmingham, said that it was important to be sure of the right diagnosis before starting patients on lifelong treatment.

GPs should ask themselves whether they need to check BP in young adult patients, he said.

'If you do need to know a young adult's BP, make sure you have averaged multiple measurements before considering treatment,' advised Dr Marshall.

But Dr Mike Mead, chairman of the Blood Pressure Association Healthcare Advisory Group and a GP in Leicester, said: 'GPs already take multiple measurements of BP as standard practice.'

If hypertension is identified, it needs to be treated, otherwise damage will build up over the years, he said.

'Many young people will visit their GP but then move around the country and it may be many years before they visit a GP again. Therefore it is important that we treat their hypertension when it is first diagnosed.'

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