1 in 3 Americans Have High Blood Pressure

An image shows a human heart with a cardiogram
An image shows a human heart with a cardiogram (Image credit: heart-beat-130925)

About a third of adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure, and only half of them have it under control, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The findings, based on interviews and physical examinations conducted during 2011 and 2012, showed no change in the nation's rate of high blood pressure from a previous study conducted during 2009 and 2010.

The rates of high blood pressure were similar between men and women, but more women than men were treating their hypertension, and had it under control, according to the report.

When the researchers compared racial groups, they found the highest rate was seen among Black adults, 42 percent of whom had the condition, according to the report published today (Oct. 31) in the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

High blood pressure or hypertension is a condition where a person has a systolic blood pressure greater o at least 140 millimeter of mercury (mmHg), and diastolic blood pressure greater of at least 90 mmHg. The condition is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, which are leading causes of death in the United States.

The percentage of people diagnosed with high blood pressure who had their condition under control, with their blood pressure under than 140/90 mm Hg, was 52 percent, below the levels that government public health initiatives such as Healthy People 2020 and Million Hearts are working to achieve, the researchers noted. [Beyond Vegetables and Exercise: 5 Ways to be Heart Healthy]

The results showed nearly 83 percent of people were aware of their hypertension, and 76 percent were taking medication to lower their blood pressure. Hypertension is sometimes called the "silent killer" because it often has no warning signs, and people may not realize they have it. 

Younger adults, ages 18 to 39, had lower rates of awareness, treatment, and control of their hypertension compared with older adults, the report said.

Exercising, and eating a healthy diet that includes fruits and vegetables, and has limited saltand cholesterol may help people keep their blood pressure down. 

Smoking, and drinking too much alcohol are among the risk factors linked to hypertension. Some conditions such as diabetes could contribute to developing chronic high blood pressure.

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Bahar Gholipour
Staff Writer
Bahar Gholipour is a staff reporter for Live Science covering neuroscience, odd medical cases and all things health. She holds a Master of Science degree in neuroscience from the École Normale Supérieure (ENS) in Paris, and has done graduate-level work in science journalism at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. She has worked as a research assistant at the Laboratoire de Neurosciences Cognitives at ENS.