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The detection of hypertension in black Caribbean populations is good, but its control is thought to be inadequate.
To explore how black Caribbean patients with hypertension understand their condition, and the strategies they use in managing hypertension.
Qualitative study using in-depth interviews.
One general practice in inner-city London.
Practice records were searched to identify black Caribbean patients with known and treated hypertension. Audiotaped in-depth interviews were conducted with all identified patients and transcripts of the interviews were analysed for thematic content.
We interviewed 19 black Caribbean patients with hypertension. Participants reported physical symptoms for elevated blood pressure; a minority relied on symptoms to determine their medicine use. A majority of participants equated ‘normal’ blood pressure readings with being cured and with no need for prescribed medicine. All participants had been prescribed antihypertension medication, and seven reported taking medication as prescribed. Those who did not, reported diverse and dynamic patterns of medication consumption. Some who had achieved normal blood pressure equated this with being cured and stopped medication, resuming when diagnosed with high blood pressure. Some modified their use of tablets according to bodily symptoms that they felt indicated higher or lower blood pressure. Some stopped or reduced medication because of unwanted effects and almost half of the participants used Caribbean ‘bush’ remedies.
These findings suggest that some patients are making reasoned decisions about blood pressure management, drawing on medical information, their own bodily experiences of illness and sociocultural notions and practices. However, this may lead to medication use that diverges from that which is recommended. This study indicates a continued need to address these patients' perspectives and develop and evaluate new strategies to achieve hypertension control in this group.