Hypertension Center Certification is a Big Deal. Here’s Why.
The Columbia Hypertension Center has been certified as an American Heart Association Comprehensive Hypertension Center, an official recognition that Columbia is a leader in the care of patients with high blood pressure, also known as hypertension.
The Columbia Hypertension Center is one of only 15 centers in the country to receive the AHA Comprehensive Hypertension Center certification and the only one in the New York City metropolitan area. The center offers patients who are uncertain whether they have high blood pressure and those with complex or difficult-to-treat cases of hypertension the most up-to-date diagnostic and treatment strategies based on the latest proven scientific research.
Centers seeking AHA certification undergo an intensive review by AHA specialists in hypertension who evaluate the policies, procedures, and operations in a center or practice to ensure accurate diagnosis, appropriate evaluation, and treatment protocols are in place for hypertension patients. Certified centers must be recognized as referral centers for complex cases and cases caused by other health conditions and have facilities and personnel able to assess and evaluate complicated hypertension problems.
Why you should care about high blood pressure
Almost half of adults in the United States have high blood pressure, and many don’t know it. You can have high blood pressure for years without symptoms. Left untreated, however, high blood pressure can lead to heart attacks, heart failure, stroke, dementia, kidney disease, arterial diseases, and other health problems.
Daichi Shimbo, MD, who co-directs the center, where a team of cardiologists, nephrologists, internists, and endocrinologists research, diagnose, and treat high blood pressure. “It is a very common condition, but so many people don’t know they have it since it often has no symptoms.” And some 40% of people diagnosed with hypertension do not have their blood pressure under control.“High blood pressure is so important to diagnose because it can cause serious acute and chronic complications,” says cardiologist
What happens at the Columbia Hypertension Center
The center focuses on patients diagnosed with hypertension whose blood pressure is uncontrolled and needs to be better treated. In many people, blood pressure can be controlled by adopting a healthy lifestyle—eating a healthy diet, losing weight, and increasing physical activity. Some also need medications that lower blood pressure.
One of the first steps in providing the right care is to get accurate blood pressure measurements.
“Blood pressure is easy to measure but not easy to measure accurately,” says Shimbo. “Blood pressure problems are easily misdiagnosed.”
Part of the problem lies with blood pressure devices. Many devices, even those commonly used by health care providers, have not been validated for accuracy. At the Columbia center, blood pressure is checked in the office with validated devices. The center’s patients also are provided with ambulatory or home monitoring devices to measure blood pressure outside of the office.
“Out-of-office blood pressure may be substantially different from blood pressure measured in the office,” Shimbo says, “and people who only have high blood pressure in the office—also known as white coat hypertension—may not need the same treatment as those with sustained high blood pressure both inside and outside the office.”
If a patient is confirmed to have high blood pressure, the next step is determining the cause. Some hard-to-treat cases are caused by other medical conditions, including kidney disease, thyroid abnormalities, and sleep apnea. The Columbia Hypertension Center can perform all the tests needed to pinpoint the cause and administer the right treatment, whether it requires medication, surgery, or an alternative intervention.
Daichi Shimbo, MD, is professor of medicine in the Division of Cardiology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.