This is true even among young adults who've had high blood pressure for an average of 20 months, according to the researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.
They analyzed data from more than 10,000 people aged 18 and older who visited a large Midwestern practice from 2008 to 2011. Doctors were 44 percent slower in starting patients aged 18 to 39 on high blood pressure drugs than they were for patients aged 60 and older.
The study was published online recently in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
"Even with regular primary care contact and continued elevated blood pressure, young adults had slower rates of [high blood pressure] medication initiation than middle-aged and older adults," study leader Dr. Heather Johnson said in a journal news release.
Prescribing rates were slowest for young adults who were white, male, not on Medicaid and who were not regular clinic visitors, the study found.
The prescribing rate for men was 36 percent slower than for women, and slower among whites than among patients in other racial/ethnic groups. The latter finding may be due to the fact that minorities, especially blacks, are at increased risk of having other health problems along with high blood pressure, the researchers said.
They also found that patients with diabetes in all age groups were prescribed high blood pressure medications 56 percent faster than other patients.
About 10 percent of Americans aged 18 to 39 have high blood pressure, which puts them at increased risk for heart problems later in life, according to the news release. There is a need to improve high blood pressure control in young adults through lifestyle changes and, if necessary, the use of blood pressure drugs, the researchers said.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about high blood pressure.