People prefer teas, pills—not exercise—as treatments for blood pressure

People are more likely to prefer a daily cup of tea or a pill over exercise as a treatment options for high blood pressure, according to findings of a survey presented April 7 at the American Heart Association’s Quality of Care and Outcomes Research Scientific Sessions 2018 in Arlington, Virginia. 

“Our findings demonstrate that people naturally assign different weights to the pluses and minuses of interventions to improve cardiovascular health,” said lead author Erica Spatz, MD, MHS, with the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, and colleagues. “I believe we need to tap into this framework when we are talking with patients about options to manage their blood pressure. We are good about discussing side effects, but rarely do we find out if other inconveniences or burdens may be impacting a person’s willingness to take a lifelong medication or to exercise regularly.”

Researchers sought to determine how individuals weigh the benefits of high blood pressure treatment options against inconvenience. The respondents included 1,384 American adults who were under 45 years of age and were split in half between males and females.

The respondents were first asked to imagine having high blood pressure. They were then asked about their preferred method of treatment among a daily cup of tea, exercise, pills or monthly or semi-annual injections to gain an extra month, year or five years of life.

Taking a pill or drinking a daily cup of tea were the preferred treatments. Some study subjects were unwilling to choose any method, even if they could gain an additional year or five years of life. Shots were the least preferred of all options.

For each treatment, the percentages of willing respondents were higher as the benefits increased.

  • 79 percent of respondents were willing to take a pill for an extra month of life, 90 percent would for an extra year of life and 96 percent would for an extra five years of life.
  • 78 percent of respondents said they would drink a daily cup of tea for an extra month of life, 91 percent would for an extra year of life and 96 percent would for an extra five years of life.
  • 63 percent of respondents said they would exercise for an extra month of life, 84 percent would for an extra year of life and 93 percent would for an extra five years of life.
  • 68 percent of respondents said they would take a shot every six months for an extra month of life, 85 percent would for an extra year of life and 93 percent would for an extra five years of life.
  • 51 percent of respondents said they would take a shot every month for an extra month of life, 74 percent would for an extra year of life and 88 percent would for an extra five years of life.
  • 20 percent of the respondents said they would want additional life expectancy beyond the parameters given in the survey.

The researchers noted a limitation of this study is that most respondents of the survey were relatively young—whereas cardiovascular disease is typically found in patients who are older. The true life-extending ability of each option was not given to the respondents of the survey.