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Hypertension in America: The Prevalence of High-Blood Pressure

According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease (CVD) is present in approximately 81.1 million American adults. Not only is the disease very common, it is often fatal. In fact, CVD is the leading cause of death in our nation, just ahead of cancer. CVD technically is not a single condition, as the name would suggest. It is actually a category made up of numerous conditions of the cardiovascular system, including coronary heart disease, stroke, heart failure and hypertension (high-blood pressure).

Blood pressure, basically, is the measure of the force on the artery walls caused by the heart pumping blood throughout the entire body. A person's blood pressure is found by taking two measurements - systolic pressure and diastolic pressure. If the data readings are too high, the person is said to have hypertension, which is the most prevalent form of CVD. Accounting for nearly 90 percent of all CVD cases, approximately 73.6 million Americans suffer from this condition.

In comparing the rate of hypertension in adults, the following data shows the percentage by ethnicity:

  • White - 24.0%
  • African American - 32.2%
  • Hispanic - 21.5%
  • Asian - 19.4%
  • American Indians/Alaskan Natives - 21.8%
  • Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders - 22%


According to data from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey between 2005 and 2008, approximately one-third of all Americans over the age of 20 have hypertension. While race seems to play an important role, there appears to be no connection between high-blood pressure and a person's gender.

Fortunately, most people with high-blood pressure in the U.S. are aware of their condition. Approximately 80 percent of hypertensive Americans know of their condition, though less people are taking counteractive measures. About 71 percent are on anti-hypertensive medication, but only 48 percent with knowledge of their condition have it under control.

There are a number of risk factors for high-blood pressure, including age, obesity, stress and a family history of the problem. Though some risk factors are unavoidable, there are some ways to keep from developing high-blood pressure. These include avoiding smoking or alcohol abuse, managing stress, losing weight if necessary, maintaining a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, exercising regularly and keeping your blood sugar under control if you are diabetic.