One-third of Americans have hypertension, half of it uncontrolled

Share via
Los Angeles Times

Nearly a third of all Americans have hypertension -- high blood pressure -- and more than half of those do not have it under control, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday. Substantial numbers do not even know they have a problem, the CDC said, and many more do not have their condition under control despite the fact that they are taking medications for it.

Normal blood pressure consists of a systolic pressure under 120 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and a diastolic pressure under 80 mmHg: that is, less than 120/80. A person is considered to have moderate or borderline high blood pressure it it falls between 120/80 and 139/89. Anything over 140/90 is high blood pressure, which is considered very dangerous. People with high blood pressure are four times as likely as those with normal pressure to die from a stroke and three times more likely to die from heart disease. Heart disease and stroke are the first and fourth leading causes of death in the United States, accounting for nearly 1,000 deaths per day.

The new data come from the 2003-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, in which a sample of 22,992 representative Americans over age 18 were interviewed and given a detailed physical examination. The agency reported in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that 30.4% of adults (about 66.9 million) during the period suffered from hypertension. Among those, 53.5% (35.8 million) did not have their hypertension controlled. In the latter group, an estimated 15.8% (5.7 million) were aware of their hypertension but were not receiving treatment, 39.4% (14.1 million) were not aware of their hypertension and 44.8% (16 million) were uncontrolled despite receiving medication for their blood pressure. Among the 35.8 million Americans with uncontrolled hypertension, nearly 90% reported having health insurance.


“We have to roll up our sleeves and make blood pressure control a priority every day, with every patient, at every doctor’s visit,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the CDC’s director.

Specifically, this means that patients should make sure to take their medications, eat a healthful, low-sodium diet, exercise, maintain a healthy weight and not smoke, the agency said. Physicians should be more alert to patients with high blood pressure, and electronic medical records systems could be modified to flag such patients. Healthcare providers could also make it easier for patients to stay on their medications by issuing 90-day refills for prescriptions and considering low or no copayments for hypertension drugs.