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To determine awareness, treatment and control of hypertension in patients attending hospital clinics in China.A cross-sectional survey.Patients over the age of 35 years, who were attending outpatient clinics in 18 hospitals of eight major cities of Northern and Southern China, were interviewed face-to-face between June and July 1999.Trained fieldworkers completed questionnaires regarding demographics, hypertension knowledge and awareness, treatment history and quality of life issues. Qualified physicians performed blood pressure assessment.A total of 9703 volunteers enrolled, of which 4510 (46.5%) were hypertensives. Among hypertensives, 23% were unaware of their high blood pressure. Although 89% of those aware reported receiving therapy, only 56% of them were taking medication regularly, and 33% were thus controlled. Although 69% of all hypertensives measuring at examination reported taking antihypertensive therapy, only 44% of them were actually taking medication regularly. Furthermore, 73% of hypertensives believed hypertension was not a serious problem, and required no regular medication.The results showed that a substantial number of outpatients have a hypertensive range of blood pressure. Although most of these patients are already being treated with drug regimen, the patient's misconceptions and lack of knowledge about the disease appear to be the major cause of treatment failure. The low rate of high blood pressure control for both sexes calls for further improvements.