By Jonathan Springston, Associate Managing Editor, AHC Media

More than 5 million Americans 65 years of age and older who are on Medicare Part D are not using their prescribed blood pressure control medication properly, placing their health at risk, according to a new CDC report.

The agency studied data from more than 18.5 million Americans enrolled in Medicare Advantage or Original Medicare with Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage during 2014. Those enrolled in these programs receive federal assistance to help pay for prescription drug costs and prescription drug insurance premiums. Researchers found that while seven of 10 U.S. adults suffer from high blood pressure (140/90 mmHg or higher), more than half do not treat the issue properly.

Specifically, within the Medicare Part D group, more than 5 million enrollees either skip doses or stop taking medication altogether. The CDC noted the problem is especially severe among minority populations and those living in the South. As a result, millions of Americans are at risk for heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and even death.

“While the Medicare prescription drug program has increased the affordability and accessibility of prescription drugs, more can be done to encourage Medicare beneficiaries to take their medications as directed,” Sean Cavanaugh, CMS deputy administrator and director of the Center for Medicare, said in a statement. “Medicare will continue to work with prescription drug plans to educate enrollees about the importance of taking their blood pressure medications as prescribed so that they can lower their risk for heart disease and stroke.”

The CDC encourages clinicians to help patients lower their blood pressure by not only educating them on the benefits of pharmacotherapy, but also by crafting healthy diet plans and urging patients to engage in overall healthier lifestyle habits such as vigorous exercise and smoking cessation.

In the October issue of Clinical Cardiology Alert, Editor Michael Crawford, MD, writes about a post-hoc analysis of patients suffering from mild to moderate aortic stenosis in a study of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol lowering that showed that the optimal blood pressure for the best survival was 130-139/70-90 mmHg.

“The results of this study fit in with the general theme that blood pressure targets for antihypertension treatment likely are different for different patient populations, and one size does not fit all,” Crawford concludes.

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