Keeping an Eye on Blood Pressure


High blood pressure—otherwise known as hypertension—has been nicknamed the “silent killer” with very good reason: it’s a well-documented cause of devastating organ damage and is an overwhelming risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Hypertension puts you at greater risk for developing a heart attack, heart failure, stroke, kidney disease and other cardiovascular problems. For many adults, adequate blood pressure control can be achieved by using only a few antihypertensive medications. But for 20-30% of patients,* their blood pressure can remain elevated above target levels in spite of good medicine and treatment efforts, making it hard to manage blood pressure, much less identify and correct the underlying problem.

This condition is known as resistant hypertension. Patients with resistant hypertension might be taking multiple antihypertensive medications, but they’re still unable to control their high blood pressure, and the risk of developing cardiovascular disease continues to climb. For a patient whose blood pressure isn’t properly controlled by the use of antihypertensive medications, he or she may have a secondary cause of hypertension, including thyroid disease, obstructive sleep apnea, pheochromocytoma, renal artery disease, aortic coarctation, and more.

Caretakers at Allegheny Health Network are taking a stand against resistant hypertension.

“We take resistant hypertension very seriously,” said AHN cardiologist Benjamin M. Susco, MD, “and my colleagues and I at the Cardiovascular Institute are actively working on innovative ways to manage this persistent and potentially dangerous health condition.”

Dr. Susco leads the Cardiovascular Institute’s Hypertension Clinic, where doctors, pharmacists, dietitians, and nurses work together in a multidisciplinary team to treat those patients identified as having resistant hypertension. The clinic uses specific algorithms to achieve blood pressures control, evaluates for unrecognized causes of hypertension, and attempts to lower the threat of cardiovascular disease for patients in and around western Pennsylvania.

In addition to a multidisciplinary team and assessment of secondary causes of hypertension, the hypertension clinic makes use of the 24-hour blood pressure cuff. This tool for 24-hour monitoring helps to better identify patterns, assess for adequate control, and help with the diagnosis of high blood pressure and resistant hypertension.

“The 24-hour blood pressure monitoring has been a great tool for us,” said Dr. Susco. “With this instrument, we can see patterns of change, variability, and have a more accurate measurement of a patient’s true degree of their hypertension."

By focusing on the diagnosis and treatment of underlying conditions, along with lifestyle changes, AHN doctors can create personalized care plans to optimize treatment of hypertension and resistant hypertension for each patient who comes through their doors.


To learn more about the AHN Cardiovascular Institute, the Hypertension Clinic, or 24-hour blood pressure monitoring at or call 412.DOCTORS (362.8677).