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October 24, 2018

Updated to reflect the 2017 Consensus Guidelines for High Blood Pressure


Hypertension is one of the leading causes of the global burden of disease. Elevated blood pressure affects more than one billion individuals and causes an estimated 9.4 million deaths per year. Hypertension doubles the risk of cardiovascular diseases, including coronary heart disease (CHD), congestive heart failure (CHF), ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke, renal failure, and peripheral arterial disease (PAD). It often is associated with additional cardiovascular disease risk factors, and the risk of cardiovascular disease increases with the total burden of risk factors. Although antihypertensive therapy reduces the risks of cardiovascular and renal disease, large segments of the hypertensive population are either untreated or inadequately treated.


Blood pressure levels, the rate of age-related increases in blood pressure, and the prevalence of hypertension vary among countries and among subpopulations within a country. Hypertension is present in all populations except for small numbers of individuals living in isolated societies. In industrialized societies, blood pressure increases steadily during the first two decades of life. In children and adolescents, blood pressure is associated with growth and maturation. Blood pressure “tracks” over time in children and between adolescence and young adulthood. In the United States, average systolic blood pressure is higher for men than for women during early adulthood, although among older individuals the age-related rate of rise is steeper for women. Consequently, among individuals aged ≥60 years, systolic blood pressures of women are higher than those of men. Among adults, diastolic blood pressure also increases progressively with age until ~55 years, after which it tends to decrease. The consequence is a widening of pulse pressure (the difference between systolic and diastolic blood pressure) beyond age 60.

In the United States, ~78 million adults have hypertension. Hypertension prevalence is 33.5% in non-Hispanic blacks, 28.9% in non-Hispanic whites, and 20.7% in Mexican Americans. The likelihood of hypertension increases with age, and among individuals aged ≥60 years, the prevalence is 65.4%. Recent evidence suggests that the prevalence of hypertension in the United States may be increasing, possibly as a consequence of increasing obesity. The prevalence of hypertension and stroke mortality rates is higher in the southeastern United States than in other regions. In African Americans, hypertension appears earlier, is generally more severe, and results in higher rates of morbidity and mortality from stroke, left ventricular hypertrophy, CHF, and end-stage renal disease (ESRD) than in white Americans. According to NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) data, in 2007–2010, 81.5% of those with hypertension were aware they had it, 74.9% were being treated, but only 52.5% were controlled.

Both environmental and genetic factors may contribute to regional and racial variations in hypertension prevalence. Studies of societies undergoing “acculturation” and studies of migrants from a less to a more urbanized setting indicate a profound environmental contribution to ...

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