Harvard Men's Health Watch

Treating hypertension: Are two meds better than one?

Dozens of antihypertensive medications are available by prescription in the United States. That's no surprise, since some 74 million Americans, about one of every three adults, have high blood pressure and another 54 million have prehypertension. But since hypertension accounts for 395,000 American deaths a year, about one of every six deaths, all these meds are coming up short on the job.

One reason for the shortfall is that hypertension doesn't produce symptoms until it has caused permanent damage to the heart, brain, kidneys, or eyes. The only way to find out if you have hypertension, the "silent killer," is to have your pressure checked (see Table 1). At present, unfortunately, nearly a quarter of people with high blood pressure don't even know they have the condition.

Diagnosis is one thing, treatment another. The second reason that hypertension continues to ravage America's health is that half of all patients who are being treated for the disease have not achieved adequate control.

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