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Hypertension Common in Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients

Findings a special concern in population with higher risk of heart problems

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Patients with rheumatoid arthritis have an especially high prevalence of hypertension, which is often underdiagnosed in younger patients and undertreated in older patients with cardiovascular disease, according to a report in the September issue of Rheumatology.

George D. Kitas, M.D., Ph.D., of the Dudley Group of Hospitals NHS Trust in Dudley, West Midlands, U.K., and colleagues conducted a cross-sectional study measuring the prevalence of hypertension in 400 rheumatoid arthritis patients. Patients were predominantly female, with a mean age of 63 years.

The researchers found that 70.5 percent of patients were hypertensive (defined as 140/90 mm Hg and/or the use of anti-hypertensive medications). Of these, 60.6 percent had been diagnosed with hypertension and were receiving medications, and 39.4 percent had been undiagnosed. Only 21.8 percent of those who were being treated had the hypertension under control; uncontrolled hypertension was more common in overweight and older patients. Furthermore, undiagnosed and untreated hypertension was significantly more common in the younger age groups.

"Systems for surveillance, adequate treatment and ongoing monitoring for these patients need to be put in place both in primary and secondary care," the authors write. "The young, and elderly overweight rheumatoid arthritis patients should be specifically screened for undiagnosed hypertension, while those with prevalent cardiovascular disease need aggressive monitoring and treatment strategies to achieve recommended blood pressure targets."

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