Hypertension Death Rate Drops, But Fatalities Still High

Even though death rates for people with high blood pressure have decreased since the 1970s, they are still higher than those of people without the condition, according to a new study.

Effective blood pressure-lowering medications, cholesterol-lowering medications and a reduction in the national smoking rate are big contributors to the decrease in overall deaths among people with high blood pressure, researchers said. But increases in obesity and diabetes likely account for the disparity in death rates between those with high blood pressure and those without, they said.

Death rates are "going down for everybody with high blood pressure, but despite the availability of several types of medication to reduce blood pressure, there is still a large gap between those with hypertension and those without," study researcher Dr. Earl S. Ford, medical officer with the U.S. Public Health Service at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a statement.

Researchers compared the death rates for people with high blood pressure in two studies. The first, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) I Epidemiologic Follow-up Study, followed adults ages 25 to 74 for about 17 years, starting from between 1971 and 1975. The second, the NHANES II study, followed adults of the same age group for about 14 years, starting from between 1988 and 1994.

The death rate during the NHANES I study was 18.8 deaths per 1,000 people among those with high blood pressure, which is a 42 percent higher death rate than people who did not have high blood pressure, the study said.

But in the NHANES II study, the death rate decreased to 14.3 deaths per 1,000 people among those with high blood pressure, which is a 57 percent higher death rate than people without high blood pressure, according to the study.

Women with high blood pressure had larger declines in blood pressure than men between the two studies, but they also gained more weight, were more likely to develop diabetes and were less likely to quit smoking than men in the studies, researchers said.

The study was published today (April 25) in the Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

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