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Jefferson Recognized for Expertise in Hypertension Care


Named one of only five Complex Hypertension Centers in the U.S. by the American Society of Hypertension (ASH)

(PHILADELPHIA) – The Department of Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University has been named a Comprehensive Hypertension Center by the American Society of Hypertension (ASH). Jefferson is one of only five in the country to earn top recognition for its advanced diagnosis, evaluation and treatment of complex hypertension and associated disorders.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 65 million Americans are living with high blood pressure.

"A large portion of these patients can be treated successfully with lifestyle modification or pharmacological treatment," says Bonita Falkner, MD, professor of Medicine and Pediatrics, a nephrologist and one of several American Society of Hypertension-Certified Hypertension Specialists at Jefferson.

Dr. Falkner and Lawrence Ward, MD, associate professor and vice chair for Clinical Practice in the Department of Medicine and a Clinical Hypertension Specialist, lead the program at Jefferson and are experts in treating complex or treatment-resistant hypertension.

"We have a set of tactics we employ to treat these patients that are not known to the average treating physician," says Dr. Ward.

Hypertension is characterized as a blood pressure greater than 140/90 on two or more blood pressure readings taken at each of two visits after initial screening. Treatment-resistant hypertension is blood pressure that remains stubbornly high despite taking at least three different types of high blood pressure drugs, one of which should be a diuretic.

"We work with patients to identify what's behind their persistently high blood pressure, evaluate whether the medications and doses they're taking are appropriate, and help fine-tune their medications to come up with the most effective combination and doses," says Ward. "Some medications, foods or supplements can actually worsen high blood pressure or prevent high blood pressure medications from working effectively."

Dr. Falkner specializes in the treatment of children and adolescents with hypertension. Its numbers are increasing in the U.S., with approximately five percent diagnosed with primary or secondary hypertension.

Hypertension left unmanaged can lead to damaged organs, as well as several illnesses, such as renal failure (kidney failure), aneurysm, heart failure, stroke, or heart attack.

The program employs an integrated approach that combines experts in primary care physicians, nephrologists, cardiologists, internists and endocrinologists as well as a pharmacist.  

"Patients needs to know that their lack of control over their hypertension is often not their fault," says Dr. Falkner. "Sometimes diet, exercise and the most common medications just can't get it under control, especially in patients with a strong family history. Our Center can work with these patients to meet their goals and avoid many of the common side effects."

To qualify for the Comprehensive Hypertension Center designation, the team completed an on-site review and assessment of care, showing that the center devotes more than half of its practice to patients with hypertension and related disorders and is staffed by personnel certified with special training in the evaluation and treatment of high blood pressure. Academic medical centers that have a multidisciplinary clinical program for hypertension that includes a robust research and teaching component can receive top level designation.

For more information, contact Lee-Ann Landis, (215) 955-2240,