More reported hypertension: A sign of progress?

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 - Blood pressure reading

More people in the U.S. reported being hypertensive, and more said they took medications to control their hypertension. Don’t be alarmed, though. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) pointed to greater awareness as the likely cause for the rise in self-reported hypertension.

In the April 5 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the CDC released its analysis on hypertension based on 2005 through 2009 data in the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey. State health department staff conduct the telephone survey of people 18 years old and older. For hypertension, they asked if the participant has ever been told by a health professional if he or she had high blood pressure. If the participant answered yes, he or she was then asked about current medication practices.

Key findings include:

  • An increase from 25.8 percent to 28.3 percent in overall age-adjusted prevalence of self-reported hypertension between 2005 and 2009;
  • An increase from 61.1 percent in 2005 to 62.6 percent in 2009 in the proportion of people who said they took antihypertensive medication;
  • Hypertensive people 65 years old and older were more likely to take medications compared with younger hypertensive people, with 94.1 percent of that age group reporting that they used antihypertensives in 2009;
  • Virginia had the lowest increase in self-reported prevalence (0.2-point percentage increase) and Kentucky had the highest (7-point percentage increase);
  • In 2009, of those reporting being hypertensive, the proportion of women was higher than men (66.9 percent vs. 59.9 percent) and the proportion of blacks was higher than Hispanics (71.6 percent vs. 55.2 percent); and
  • Blacks reported a significant increase in the use of antihypertensives between 2005 to 2009, from 67 percent to 71.6 percent.

The authors highlighted the “small but significant increase in the prevalence of self-reported hypertension” but compared the results to National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) findings that found no increase in the prevalence of measured hypertension. The NHANES data also showed a significant hike in the use of antihypertensive medications.

“[T]herefore the increase in self-reported hypertension described in the current report likely is related to an increase in awareness in hypertension,” they proposed. They emphasized that hypertension is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease that is modifiable, and encouraged public health officials and healthcare providers to use the findings to identify opportunities to further increase awareness and initiate programs to improve outcomes.