September 28, 2017 – Routine screening and interventions in primary care for hazardous and harmful alcohol use among people with hypertension could dramatically improve their health and save lives.
Results from this new study, led by Dr. Jurgen Rehm of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), were published today in the open access journal BMC Medicine.
The study, based on systematic reviews and meta-analysis from five European countries, showed that these interventions would significantly lower blood pressure and reduce premature deaths from chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and gastro-intestinal disease.
“We were surprised by the magnitude of potential health gains associated with one small practice change at the primary care level,” says Dr. Rehm, Director of the Institute for Mental Health Policy Research at CAMH. “Our analysis suggests that screening and intervention for alcohol problems for people with hypertension would lead to substantial reductions in cardiovascular disease mortality with hundreds, potentially thousands of lives saved. This does not even include the effect of reduced alcohol on cancer mortality, which would only been seen in decades due to the long time lag.”
Based on these findings, the authors make the following recommendations: increase hypertension screening, as well as screening and brief advice on harmful alcohol consumption in primary care, conduct treatment for less severe alcohol use disorders in people with hypertension in primary care, and screen for alcohol use in hypertension that isn’t well controlled.