Blood pressure differences between arms could be important indicator of increased cardiovascular risk
Treatment rates for high blood pressure rose by more than half 32% to 58% between 1994 and 2011Reuters

Today more people in Britain are having their high blood pressure managed successfully than 20 years ago, which means fewer deaths from heart attacks and strokes, a new study notes.

The paper published in the medical journal Lancet predicts that in the next eight years about 80% of people suffering from blood pressure will have the condition under control, if the efforts to improve high blood pressure (hypertension) management continue.

Treatment rates for high blood pressure rose by more than half 32% to 58% between 1994 and 2011, according to the study. Its results were based on data from national health surveys, conducted over a course of seven years.

Moreover, the number of people taking adequate and timely treatment who keep their blood pressure within the normal range doubled from 33% to 63% during the same period.

Hypertension was controlled in only 37% of individuals.

However, even if people who did not seek treatment were accounted for, this was still an increase on 1994, when only 11% of the total population recorded successfully managing the condition.

"Although the rates of diagnosis, treatment, and control of raised blood pressure remain suboptimum in England, our findings are still a cause for optimism," said Emanuela Falaschetti, who led the study at Imperial College London.

"Whereas once the 'rule of halves' prevailed – half the general population with high blood pressure were diagnosed, half of those detected treated, and half of those treated controlled – now in England [it] is better than the 'rule of two-thirds'."

Cardiologist Professor Martin Cowie from Imperial College London urged stepping up battle against the condition, which is strongly associated with heart attacks.

"It's good news and shows, for patients, the importance of this and how we should redouble our efforts," he told the Daily Express. "I think it is particularly important that the research showed how better blood pressure control means people would develop these cardiovascular conditions five years later.

"Delaying any problems by five years means a longer healthy life for people and means the difference between them making it to 80 not 75, which for most people is really important."

The study says that over 50,000 cases of heart attacks in England can be prevented by 2022, if the trend of improvement in hypertension management continues.