A study in The Lancet found an 'ever-improving' approach to hypertension control in primary care between 1994 and 2011, using data from five Health Survey for England reports.
Rates of well-controlled BP among patients treated for hypertension doubled in this time, from 33% to 63%. BP levels among treated patients fell by 15mmHg on average during this period.
A total of 58% of adults with hypertension were receiving BP treatment by 2011. However, only 37% of all hypertensive adults had well-controlled BP.
Nevertheless, researchers from Imperial College London estimate that several hundreds of thousands of major cardiovascular events may have been prevented over this time, saving tens of thousands of lives each year.
Researchers estimate that if progress continues, by 2022 upwards of 80% of patients treated for hypertension will achieve good control of BP, preventing a further 50,000 major cardiovascular events per year.
Study leader Emanuela Falaschetti from Imperial College London said: 'Although the rates of diagnosis, treatment, and control of raised BP remain suboptimum in England, our findings are still a cause for optimism.'
In a comment article, Birmingham GP Professor Richard McManus from the University of Oxford and Professor Jonathan Mant from the University of Cambridge in the UK, said: 'Many public health initiatives aim to reduce the population burden of hypertension and along with physicians in primary care - who provide most hypertension management in the UK - have led to substantial advances in hypertension management and BP control.'
They said the study was 'a welcome example of the combined effects of individual physicians and policy makers on a simple but important risk factor. After 50 years of treatment, it seems that the drugs are working!'