Westmead Hospital study reveals urgent need for improved blood pressure management in cardiology patients

Westmead Hospital’s Professor Clara Chow and University of Sydney’s Ritu Trivedi

Westmead Hospital’s Professor Clara Chow and University of Sydney researchers have found more than one in three Australians with atrial fibrillation (AFib) and hypertension have poorly controlled blood pressure, significantly increasing their risk of stroke.

The study, which analysed electronic medical record data from 34,000 Australians with AFib and hypertension, highlights the need for improved blood pressure control in this high stoke-risk population.

Atrial fibrillation, an irregular heart rhythm disorder, affects over 500,000 Australians and a staggering 33 million individuals worldwide.

People with AFib are four times more likely to experience a stroke, making effective blood pressure control essential for reducing this risk.

However, the study’s findings shed light on a concerning trend, with a significant portion of AFib patients having poorly controlled blood pressure.

Clara, who is a Westmead Hospital Cardiologist and Senior researcher on the paper, explains the implications of the findings, stating, “Both hypertension and atrial fibrillation are leading causes of stroke globally and each year, 15 million people worldwide suffer a stroke, resulting in five million deaths and five million permanent disabilities”.

“Our study reveals that more than one in three Australians with AFib and hypertension have poorly controlled blood pressure, putting them at an increased risk of stroke.”

The study also identified specific risk factors associated with poorly controlled blood pressure in this population whereby women and individuals over the age of 75 were found to be at the highest risk.

University of Sydney’s PhD student and also the lead researcher on the paper, Ritu Trivedi, said the study emphasises the importance of regular blood pressure checks, stating, “Our findings show that people are more likely to have their blood pressure controlled and receive optimal treatment if they have regular visits and visit the same doctor each time”.

“Continuity of care with your doctor seems to play a crucial role in managing blood pressure effectively.”

Addressing these modifiable gaps in blood pressure control could potentially reduce the risk of stroke for hundreds of thousands of Australians.

Ritu highlights the benefits of the research for patients, saying, “Raising awareness about heart disease not being just a man’s problem and encouraging women to get regular blood pressure checks is crucial”.

“The key recommendation here is that we need to manage blood pressure better in people at the highest risk of stroke and this can then significantly reduce their chances of experiencing a stroke,” Clara said.

This study is an Australian first to investigate blood pressure control rates in a high-risk patient population, and it highlights the need for increased awareness and proactive measures to improve control rates in those with atrial fibrillation and hypertension.”

Professor Clara Chow

By prioritising regular blood pressure checks, promoting continuity of care, and empowering individuals to take charge of their health, the devastating impact of stroke could be mitigated, potentially saving countless lives.