Travelling with high blood pressure.


According to this article, millions of people with untreatable high blood pressure were given hope yesterday by the development of a surgical procedure that can dramatically cut the risk from the condition.

High blood pressure is the biggest risk factor for premature death worldwide, affecting one in three adults. It increases the incidence of strokes and heart attacks and affects 16 million people in the UK.

Most people can reduce their blood pressure by drinking less alcohol, eating less salt and taking more exercise, or with drugs prescribed by doctors. But 10 to 20% are unable to control hypertension with available medicines. The new treatment offers an alternative way of cutting blood pressure without the use of drugs. Though millions could be treated with the new procedure, the NHS would probably limit its application for economic reasons.

The minimally invasive procedure is similar to angioplasty for heart disease but involves deactivating nerves in the kidney which play a key role in regulating blood pressure. A catheter is inserted into a vein in the thigh and threaded through to the kidney. Then a burst of radio-frequency energy is used to disable the nerves.

A trial of the technique run in 24 hospitals worldwide, including in the UK, found the technique cut blood pressure levels by a sufficient margin to halve the risk of dying from heart attack or stroke.

The 100 patients in the study, half of whom underwent the procedure, had average readings of about 178/97mm Hg at the start of the study, which were well above the threshold for high blood pressure – 140/90mm Hg. Six months after treatment, 84 per cent of those who underwent the procedure had significant reductions in blood pressure.  Patients in the UK were treated at Barts and the London NHS Trust starting last December.

At AllClear, we know a lot about high blood pressure (or hypertension) because it is one of the main conditions that we cover for people going on holiday. Obviously, a big part of dealing with high blood pressure is making those relevant lifestyle changes, but as this article points out, sometimes the medication and lifestyle changes are not enough. So it is good to hear about these new surgical techniques that could help people with high blood pressure…