Treatment of high blood pressure, which afflicts almost one in four adults, pays off dramatically in lives lengthened and disabling illnesses avoided.
Yet urban emergency rooms frequently see patients with untreated hypertension that has soared to life-threatening levels.
Almost invariably, these high blood pressure emergencies involve the poor and minorities, according to a New England Journal of Medicine study.
And the odds were 3 1/2 to 1 that such patients had no personal doctor.
"The lack of a primary care physician was the strongest predictor of severe hypertension," conclude Columbia University researchers who studied 93 high blood pressure emergencies.