The rate of high blood pressure among American adults has plateaued over the last 10 years, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But compared to 10 years ago, more of those hypertensive adults are now taking medicine to control their condition.
The CDC’s new report is based on health surveys of more than 24,000 adults, taken from 1999 to 2008. It found that the percentage of American adults with high blood pressure has stayed steady at 30% — still far too high — but that more people are now aware of their problem and seeking medical care to treat it. (More on Time.com: Black Men With High Blood Pressure, See Your Barber?)
Among adults with high blood pressure, the CDC report shows 81% were aware of it in 2007-2008, compared with 70% in 1999-2000. The rates of treatment also went up: from about 28% in 1999-2000 to 49% in 2007-2008 among young adults aged 18 to 29, and from 60% to nearly 80% in adults over 60 during the same time period. The proportion of middle-aged hypertension patients taking medication, however, stayed virtually constant.
The report didn’t say why levels of hypertension have leveled off, but certainly the increase in people’s awareness and treatment helped. It’s possible also that more people are adopting heart-healthier lifestyles — reducing salt, for instance, or quitting smoking and exercising. The Washington Post reports also that hypertension rates may have stalled along with obesity rates:
A CDC spokesman said there could be a connection to the nation’s obesity rate. The latest CDC data indicate the obesity rate has essentially leveled off for about five years, after many years of a steady climb.
While it’s good news that hypertension is being treated more, the problem is far from solved. From the Post:
Even if high blood pressure too has plateaued, the actual number is increasing because the nation’s adult population is growing — especially the baby boomer-bolstered ranks of people in their 50s and older.
The number of adults with high blood pressure grew from about 59 million to more than 66 million over the 10 years, [study author Sarah] Yoon said.
Other estimates put it at at least 74 million.
“It’s nice to see we’re making progress with awareness and control, but 30 percent of a big number is a very big number,” said Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, a Northwestern University preventive medicine specialist who is a spokesman for the American Heart Association.
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