Management of difficult-to-control hypertension

Mayo Clin Proc. 2000 Mar;75(3):278-84. doi: 10.4065/75.3.278.


Hypertension is a primary risk factor for heart disease and stroke, the first and third most common causes of death in the United States. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) revealed an increase in awareness of hypertension from 51% to 73%, and, among persons with hypertension, the treatment rate has increased from 31% to 55% (from 1976-1980 vs 1988-1991). Of importance, the rate of those achieving goal blood pressure (< 140/90 mm Hg) has only improved from 10% in NHANES-II (1976-1980) to 29% in NHANES-III (1988-1991). Thus, more than 70% of persons with hypertension in whom good blood pressure control has not been achieved are termed "difficult hypertensives." Failure to achieve treatment blood pressure goals of less than 140/90 mm Hg is usually attributed to the presence of resistant hypertension, a resistant physician, secondary causes of hypertension such as renovascular disease, medication adverse effects, or a nonadherent patient. A practical understanding of the pathophysiology of resistant hypertension, appropriate screening techniques for secondary forms of hypertension, and alternative management strategies for a chronic disease such as hypertension can result in treatment goals being achieved in most difficult hypertensives.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Gland Neoplasms / complications
  • Antihypertensive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects
  • Drug Resistance
  • Humans
  • Hyperaldosteronism / complications
  • Hypertension / drug therapy*
  • Hypertension / etiology
  • Patient Compliance
  • Pheochromocytoma / complications
  • Renal Artery Obstruction / complications
  • Risk Factors


  • Antihypertensive Agents