Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, impacts nearly one in four Canadians (1). High blood pressure happens when your blood vessels have too much pressure (140/90 mmHg or more) (2-4). You may not feel any symptoms if you have high blood pressure, and the only way to know if you have it is to get your blood pressure checked by a health professional (4;5).
If left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to serious health issues such as heart attack, stroke, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, and more (4; 6-7). Luckily, making lifestyle changes can reduce blood pressure and the risks that it can bring. Lifestyle changes include eating healthy, being physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, taking medications as prescribed, and visiting your healthcare professional as needed (2;4).
Knowing what lifestyle changes to make and how to make them is important. Often, this requires working with healthcare professionals to come up with a plan. Nurse-led care is an option for this. Nurse-led care models typically involve your care being coordinated mostly by a nurse or nursing team—including nurse practitioners, registered nurses, and advanced practice nurses. Nurses will work together with you, your caregivers, and other healthcare professionals to develop a care plan. This type of care often goes beyond just medical management to include health counselling and education for patients (2;8-11).
You may be wondering how nurse-led care compares to usual hypertension care, such as clinic-based care management, home blood pressure monitoring, or doctor-led care, which focuses on medical treatments. A recent systematic review addresses this by comparing the two for hypertension management in people with high blood pressure. Other areas of interest include changes to lifestyle behaviours and patient knowledge (3).
So, how does nurse-led care compare?
What the research tells us
Among studies within the review, most of the nurse-led care was delivered face-to-face and included education and counselling about high blood pressure.
The review found some positive effects. For example, nurse-led care may be more effective than usual care at reducing both diastolic and systolic blood pressure for up to six months. These effects, however, are not maintained at 12 months. The findings are based on low to moderate certainty evidence, meaning they may change as more evidence emerges.
When it comes to lifestyle behaviour modification and knowledge, there is some limited evidence that nurse-led care may improve certain aspects of diet, as well as physical activity, while it is unclear what impact it has on smoking, alcohol intake, and knowledge of the disease or risk factors (2).
While more high-quality research would be helpful, these results show that accessing nurse-led care may benefit you if you have high blood pressure. If you are interested, you can check with your local health authority to learn more about nurse-led care and how to access it in your community. Your family doctor’s office may also have nurse practitioners or other types of nurses on staff that you can access.