Hospitalizations for dangerously high blood pressure more than doubled in the United States from 2002 to 2014, new research shows.
This jump in hospitalizations for what's called a "hypertensive crisis" occurred even though data show overall progress in Americans controlling their blood pressure and a decrease in blood pressure-related heart problems during that period.
"Although more people have been able to manage their blood pressure over the last few years, we're not seeing this improvement translate into fewer hospitalizations for hypertensive crisis," said study first author Dr. Joseph Ebinger. He is a clinical cardiologist and director of clinical analytics at the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, in Los Angeles.
Ebinger and his colleagues' analysis of a database called the National Inpatient Sample showed that hospitalizations for hypertensive crises were more than two times higher in 2014 than in 2002.
Hypertensive crises accounted for 0.17% of all hospital admissions for men in 2002, but 0.39% in 2014. Among women, the rates were 0.16% in 2002 and 0.34% in 2014, according to the study published Jan. 27 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
During the study period, there were over 918,000 hospitalizations and nearly 4,400 in-hospital deaths related to hypertensive crisis nationwide.
The researchers did find that the risk of dying from a hypertensive crisis decreased slightly overall from 2002 to 2014. Women and men had a similar death rate, even though women had fewer health issues than men.
There are a number of possible reasons why hospitalizations for hypertensive crisis are on the rise, Ebinger suggested in a medical center news release.
An increasing number of Americans may have difficulty affording blood pressure medications, so they may be taking inadequate doses of the drugs or not taking them at all, he said.
Also, poorer Americans may have limited access to health care; financial problems and other factors that make it more difficult for them to avoid a high-salt diet; inactivity; smoking; or other unhealthy behaviors that can contribute to high blood pressure.
"We need more research to understand why this is happening and how clinicians can help patients stay out of the hospital," Ebinger said.
The American Heart Association has more on hypertensive crisis.
SOURCE: Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, news release, Jan. 27, 2022