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For World Hypertension Day 2024, discover three of our innovative studies – SNAP2, SHIP, and OPTIMISE 2 – aiming to improve blood pressure management across the life cycle through technology and patient involvement.

A person using a blood pressure monitor and a mobile phone app to monitor and keep track of their BP.

May 17 is World Hypertension Day and dedicated to raising awareness about high blood pressure – a condition that affects millions globally and can lead to serious health issues such as heart disease and stroke.

The Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences has a deep history and wide portfolio of research into this condition and how to best manage it. So, for World Hypertension Day, we’ve selected three current projects that give some idea of the diversity and scope of hypertension-focussed projects within our department.

SNAP2: Supporting new mums with high blood pressure

Each year, many women in the UK experience high blood pressure during pregnancy, which can lead to serious complications. The SNAP2 study aims to help these women better manage their blood pressure after giving birth. Researchers are developing a programme that includes self-monitoring of blood pressure at home, adjusting medications as needed, and receiving support through digital tools. The goal is to see if this program can improve long-term blood pressure control, reduce the risk of heart problems, and save healthcare costs.

SHIP: Using technology to manage high blood pressure

The SHIP study is a ‘service evaluation” of the real-world use of a digital tool called 'Hypertension Plus', which is based on research conducted in our department. This tool enables patients and their doctors to collaboratively monitor blood pressure using at-home devices and mobile phones, with the system sending reminders and alerts to help patients adhere to their treatment plan. The study aims to determine if this technology can effectively control blood pressure, streamline the workload for healthcare providers, exploring the challenges they might face with this new technology, and reduce costs for the healthcare system.

OPTIMISE 2: Helping older adults safely reduce blood pressure medications

As people age, they often continue taking medications that were prescribed earlier in life to manage health conditions like high blood pressure. However, the balance of risks and benefits may change over time. The OPTIMISE 2 study is investigating whether it's safe for adults aged 75 and older, whose blood pressure is now in a normal range and are at an increased risk of adverse events such as falls, to reduce the number of blood pressure medications they take. The goal is to see if taking fewer medications can maintain a healthy blood pressure while improving overall quality of life and reducing potential side effects, hospital visits, and healthcare costs. The study will follow a large group of participants from all over England for up to 10 years to assess the long-term impact of this medication reduction strategy.

A key strength across these studies is the involvement of patients as partners in the research process.

Our researchers are committed to involving patients and the public, not just as study participants, but also as advisors who help guide the research itself. Patients bring valuable expertise and lived experiences to our work, ensuring that it remains relevant, addresses the things that matter most to those affected, and is conducted in an ethical and accessible manner. All three projects include patient and public involvement members in either their trial management groups or oversight committees.

As an example, the SNAP2 study works closely with organisations such as The Motherhood Group, Action on Pre-eclampsia, Birth Companions, and the Muslim Women's Network to ensure that the research, intervention, and study materials are sensitive and suitable for women from diverse backgrounds.  Their input has been invaluable throughout the research process, from the design of the intervention itself, to plans for dissemination of findings. By actively engaging with patient and community groups, SNAP2 hopes to develop an intervention that is not only effective but also usable and accessible to the women it seeks to support.

Through this kind of focus on relevance to real-world patients, all three studies highlighted have the potential to significantly improve patient care and inform healthcare policies.

For example, SNAP2 could go on to inform the development of targeted interventions for women with hypertensive pregnancies, potentially reducing their long-term cardiovascular risk. The SHIP study could provide evidence to support the wider implementation of digital self-monitoring and self-management services in primary care, improving patient engagement and blood pressure control. The OPTIMISE 2 trial could change the way blood pressure medications are prescribed in older adults, with fewer people being expected to take multiple medications, potentially reducing the risk of medication-related harm.

Understanding and managing high blood pressure can save lives. Through research like SNAP2, SHIP, and OPTIMISE 2, we continue to contribute valuable insights into the management of blood pressure, across the life cycle, ultimately aiming to improve patient care and health outcomes in the UK and worldwide.

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