Hypertension rates rise sharply
■ A new prehypertensive category can serve as an early warning that lifestyle changes are necessary.
By Susan J. Landers — Posted Sept. 13, 2004
Washington --About one-third of adults in the United States have high blood pressure, a striking increase from 10 years earlier, said federal researchers, and one that can likely be attributed to both the aging of the population and the increased rates of obesity.
A new analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data found that the proportion of the population with hypertension grew by about 8% in the last decade. The analysis was published in the September Hypertension.
"We hope that this new data will serve as a wake-up call to physicians, other health care professionals and the public," said Barbara Alving, MD, acting director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
"More aggressive prevention and treatment of high blood pressure is needed. Our heart health depends on it," she said.
The National Blood Pressure Education Program's most recent guidelines identified a prehypertension category to provide an alert to doctors and their patients that blood pressure levels are approaching a danger point and that steps should be taken to halt its climb.
Those steps include losing weight, becoming more physically active and limiting the consumption of alcohol and salt.
Keeping a closer eye on the blood pressure levels of children and adolescents was also a recent recommendation by the education program because the nation's youngsters, too, are growing heavier and showing signs of developing hypertension.
Meanwhile, the National Institutes of Health is launching an interdisciplinary research program to help fight obesity, which affects about two-thirds of the U.S. population and is a strong risk factor for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.
The goal of the research program is to better understand the environmental, social, behavioral and genetic factors that lead to obesity.