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$120,000 grant to fund hypertension research

Gary James, director of the Institute for Primary and Preventative Health Care and professor in the Decker School of Nursing, has been awarded a two-year, $120,000 research grant by the New York State Empire Clinical Research Investigator Program (ECRIP) to develop a better means of diagnosing hypertension, the leading cause of heart disease, kidney failure and stroke.

Though about 50 million Americans — roughly one out of every four adults — have been diagnosed with hypertension, that diagnosis is often difficult due to “white coat hypertension,” when patient anxiety or conditioned responses to seeing a doctor’s white coat make blood pressure readings unreliable. In collaboration with Dr. James Jewell at United Health Services and the UHS medical education department, James will use day-long ambulatory blood pressure monitoring to obtain a more accurate diagnosis of hypertension in his study, slated to begin in July.

“Improved diagnosis will improve treatment,” he said. “It will save money for patients, in that unnecessary treatment will be removed, and needed treatment will be better targeted.”

“We’re pleased that we were selected for the ECRIP grant,” said Judith Spencer, director of Medical Education for United Health Services Hospitals. “This is an exciting project because it unites the hospital’s residency programs with the University. We hope to build a strong relationship so that we can benefit from each other’s expertise. The information we gather in this study will help us teach our residents and enable us to provide better care for our patients.”

Approximately 200 patients from the Johnson City Family Care Center and the Wilson Internal Medicine Clinic will be enrolled in the study. Participants will wear an ambulatory blood pressure monitor and log their readings for a 24-hour period. Blood pressure readings will be taken every 15 minutes during waking hours and every hour during sleep. The results will then be correlated with physical activity and emotional events recorded in the logs.

“This has the potential of generating enormous amounts of information about what affects an individual’s blood pressure,” James said. “The research will contribute to the physician’s ability to accurately determine the best way to treat the hypertension.”

James, who will serve as the research mentor, said the data will benefit the individual patient and be used to create a composite of how lifestyle relates to blood pressure.

After the study is completed, James hopes that ambulatory blood pressure monitoring will become routine medical practice, providing better health care for the local population.

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