New CDC data finds hypertension on the rise—but it’s not what you think

Hypertension is on the rise in the United Sates, according to new data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overall prevalence was 45.4% in 2017-2018, up from 41.7% in 2013-2014. But there’s actually a reason to feel quite optimistic about those numbers—the rise comes from an updated definition of hypertension, one first suggested by the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and American Heart Association (AHA).

“In 2017, the ACC in partnership with the AHA released new guideline recommendations for the definition of hypertension,” the CDC explained in its analysis. “This report has adopted the new guidelines; earlier reports used the previous national guidelines. In contrast with the earlier high blood pressure guidelines, the 2017 guidelines result in a higher percentage of the population being categorized as having hypertension.”

If the CDC had not changed its definition of hypertension, prevalence for 2017-2018 would be 30.7%—a considerable improvement compared to 2013-2014.

“In general, lowering the blood pressure threshold for the diagnosis of hypertension is expected to result in earlier treatment,” the CDC added.

Looking closer at those 2017-2018 numbers, hypertension is more common among men (51%) than women (39.7%) and the numbers increase significantly with age. For individuals 40 to 59 years old, prevalence is 54.5%—that number jumps to 74.5% for those who are 60 years old and older.

Also, an adult’s education level was directly associated with the prevalence of hypertension. College graduates, for example, had a “significantly lower” prevalence (38.5%) than adults with a high school education or less (47%). Across all education levels, one thing was consistent—hypertension remained more common among men than women.