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Taking Blood Pressure Medication Cuts Dying Risk

A study of U.S. Medicaid patients found that the more closely a person adhered to his or her doctor’s recommendations for filling their blood pressure medication prescription, the lower his or her risk of stroke and death. 

Stroke is one of the primary illnesses costing millions of American families according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance which tracks medical research that impacts individuals.

Taking just one more pill as recommended each week (from a one-a-day regimen) cut stroke risk by 9 percent and death risk by 7 percent, researchers with the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis reported in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. 

The medical experts studied the medical records of about 49,000 Tennessee Medicaid patients for 1994 to 2000 to determine if blood pressure medication refill adherence or frequency of physician visits influenced risk of stroke or death. The researchers also investigated whether the type of blood pressure-lowering drugs a patient took was associated with stroke or risk of dying. 

Patients were taking two different types of blood pressure drug on average, although some were taking as many as six. Sixty percent of the patients filled their prescriptions less than 80 percent of the time, and were classified as non-adherent to their medication. 

During follow-up, which ranged from 3 to 7 years, 619 study participants had a stroke and 2,051 died.

Patients who were non-adherent were a half-percent more likely to die over a five-year period compared to adherent patients. Blood pressure drugs known as thiazide diuretics, ACE inhibitors, calcium channel blockers and beta blockers all cut death risk by 3 to 4 percent, while thiazide diuretics also cut stroke risk. 

Patients in the study averaged about five doctor office visits a year, although there was a wide range, with some not seeing a doctor at all and others logging nearly 90 visits a year.  Patients who visited the doctor more often were 1 percent less likely to die.

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