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Over 100 Million Americans Have High Blood Pressure, AHA Says

Charles M. Carlsen

Published April 23, 2024
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Suffering a stroke or heart attack are two of the most serious health consequences associated with high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Unfortunately, the number of Americans at risk of these health threats gets higher year after year.
According to the latest American Heart Association (AHA) statistics, approximately 122.4 million adult Americans 20 years and above suffer high blood pressure. That translates to 46.7% of the adult population.(1)
Considering that age is one of the risk factors for high blood pressure (over 65 years)(2),several age-related indicators suggest that the blood pressure menace is going to get worse rather than better:
  • First, the American population is older now than it has ever been, with an overall median age of 38.9 by 2022.(3)
  • Second, data from the last census shows that the number of Americans in the ≥ 65-year bracket has grown over five times from 1920-2020 to reach 16.8% or 55.8 million.(4)
  • Third, although the life expectancy in the US has gone down lately, it is still high at 76.4 years, which suggests a sustained older population.(5)
And there’s more worrying news.
Hypertension-related mortality rate is high in the US, mainly because high blood pressure puts you at risk of stroke and heart disease. The two are the leading mortality causes in the US.(6)
According to the AHA, over 4 million deaths reported in the period between 2000 and 2019 were a result of hypertension-related cardiovascular disease. That means 8.8% of all deaths in that period and 25.4% of all cardiovascular disease-related deaths.(7)
Globally, high blood pressure causes approximately 7.5 million deaths or 12.8% of all deaths.(8)
While these numbers are worrying, knowing more about high blood pressure can significantly improve the situation. Let’s start with what constitutes high blood pressure before what you should do about it.

When is a Blood Pressure Reading Considered High?

In 2017, the American College of Cardiology (ACC)/American Heart Association (AHA) and other health societies published a new guideline for high blood pressure in clinical practice.
Before this guideline, a person with a blood pressure of ≥140/90 mmHg was considered hypertensive. With the new guidelines, hypertension is defined by a blood pressure >130/80 mmHg, and that means the person is at least of a stroke or heart attack. Additionally, blood pressure >120/80 mmHg is considered elevated.
These new guidelines underline two crucial details:
  1. A higher percentage of American adults now have high blood pressure and are at risk of stroke and heart attack than before the adjusted readings.
  2. Anyone with a blood pressure of 130/80 mmHg should do something about itto reduce their risk of stroke, heart attack, and other hypertension-related health threats.
So, exactly what should these people do? Read the section below to find out.

What to Do if You Have High Blood Pressure?

There are several hypertension risks everyone should know about. These include:
  • Older age above 65.
  • Genetics.
  • Obesity and overweight.
  • A sedentary life with little or no physical activity.
  • A high-salt diet.
  • High tobacco and alcohol consumption.(10)
It goes without saying that avoiding these risks helps prevent hypertension. However, people who are already hypertensive should adopt particular measures to prevent hypertension-related health complications.
Here are some of the things you should do if you have high blood pressure:
  • Be physically active and do at least 30 minutes of physical activity 5 days every week. Unfortunately, data from the CDC shows that adherence to physical activity guidelines is low among Americans.(11)
  • Adopt the DASH dietby reducing salt intake and preferring more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy in your daily meals.
  • Work with your doctor or healthcare provider to decide on your need for hypertension medication and other necessary treatments if you have additional risk factors for heart disease.
  • Avoid tobacco and high alcohol consumption.
  • Have your blood pressure checked regularly.

Final Thoughts

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, destroys your blood vessels and puts you at risk of stroke and heart attack. Unfortunately, this is the reality for over 100 million Americans with high blood pressure.
You can significantly reduce your risk of high blood pressure by staying physically active, eating healthy, and avoiding high alcohol consumption, among other choices.
Stay up to date with your blood pressure levels by working with your doctor. That way, you can keep your risk for hypertension under check.

REFERENCES

1. Connie W. Tsao, Aaron W. Aday, Zaid I. Almarzooq, Cheryl A.M. Anderson, et al. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2023 Update: A Report From the American Heart Association, 147(8), e93-e621.
2. World Health Organization. Hypertension.
3. Population Reference Bureau. Fact Sheet: Aging in the United States.
4. United States Census Bureau. 2020 Census: 1 in 6 People in the United States Were 65 and Over.
5. CDC. Life Expectancy.
6. CDC. Facts About Hypertension.
7. Adam S. Vaughan, Fátima Coronado, Michele Casper, Fleetwood Loustalot and Janet S. Wright. County‐Level Trends in Hypertension‐Related Cardiovascular Disease Mortality—United States, 2000 to 2019; 11(7):e024785.
8. WHO. Blood pressure/hypertension.
9. Schwartzbard AZ, Newman JD, Weintraub HS, Baum SJ. The 2017 high blood pressure clinical practice guideline: The old and the new. Clin Cardiol. 2018 Mar;41(3):279-281.
10. CDC. Know Your Risk for High Blood Pressure.
11. Abildso CG, Daily SM, Umstattd Meyer MR, Perry CK, Eyler A. Prevalence of Meeting Aerobic, Muscle-Strengthening, and Combined Physical Activity Guidelines During Leisure Time Among Adults, by Rural-Urban Classification and Region — United States, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2023;72:85–89. DOI:
Article by
Charles M. Carlsen
Hello! I'm Charles, As co-founder of Drsono, I contribute to the DRSONO blog, providing valuable insights and up-to-date information on ultrasound technology and diagnostic imaging.

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