More Americans Have, Get Treated For High Blood Pressure
First, the bad news: More American adults have hypertension (high blood pressure) and prehypertension than ever before.
the good news: The percentage of those getting treated for and
controlling high blood pressure has also increased. As a result, even
the bad news has a good news aspect: more people are living with rather
than dying from hypertension.
bad news/good news portrait of the disease — reported in
Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association — emerged
from an analysis of data from two national health studies. Researchers
at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), of the
National Institutes of Health, said the nation’s obesity epidemic
is a major factor in the increased prevalence of hypertension.
confirms what others have observed based on more limited data and what
one would expect, because obesity is an important cause of high blood
pressure," said Jeffrey A. Cutler, M.D., lead author of the study and a
consultant to NHLBI’s Divisions of Prevention and Population
Sciences and Cardiovascular Diseases.
compared the hypertension findings of the third National Health and
Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III), which ran from
1988–1994, with data from the first six years (1999–2004)
of the current NHANES, which collects information continuously in
two-year blocks. They examined data from 16,351 NHANES III respondents
and 14,430 surveyed during 1999–2004, all age 18 or older.
age-standardized prevalence rate for hypertension rose from 24.4
percent to 28.9 percent. Being overweight or obese accounted for part
but not all of the increase in high blood pressure among different age
and race/ethnicity groups.
is an estimate of the total number of cases of a disease existing in a
population during a specified period. Prevalence is often expressed as
a percentage of the population.
see that much of the magnitude in men is accounted for by obesity, but
less so in women, possibly because of some unexplored changes in risk
factors for hypertension," said Paul D. Sorlie, Ph.D., co-author of the
study and Epidemiology Branch Chief in the Division of Prevention and
Among the key results of the analysis under prevalence:
- The age-specific prevalence increased in all age groups starting at age 40 in women and age 60 in men.
most notable change in most race and gender groups was an upward trend
in blood pressure categories. This lowered the percent of Americans
with normal pressure (from 55.5 percent to 50.3 percent).
Prehypertension — defined as readings of 120 to less than 140
systolic and/or 80 to 89 diastolic — increased from 32.3 percent
to 36.1 percent. (Systolic is the upper number—the pressure when
the heart is beating, while diastolic, the lower number, is the
pressure when the heart is relaxing.)
Among the key results of the analysis under awareness, treatment and control:
1999–2004, 72 percent of Americans with hypertension were aware
they had the disorder, 61 percent were undergoing treatment, and 35
percent had their blood pressure under control.
- Hypertension awareness increased more than 5 percent among men. It also increased among non-Hispanic black women.
rates improved in all race-gender groups, with significant increases in
non-Hispanic white men and non-Hispanic black men and women.
rates also tended to improve across races and genders. Non-Hispanic
white and black men had the largest increases, from 22 percent to 39
percent and from 17 percent to 30 percent, respectively.
control improvement was not shown in white women between the two
studies. "Thetrend lines have reversed," Cutler said. "Hypertension
among white men is now being controlled as well or better than among
continue to have lower control rates than other ethnic groups,
especially among young men (16 percent) and older women (19 percent).
success with hypertension treatment and control, while considerable, is
far from ideal," Cutler said. "Most importantly, we have to do a better
job of prevention."
The NHLBI and the National Center for Health Statistics funded the study.
For more information on the American Heart Association, visit www.americanheart.org.