How Many People Have High Blood Pressure?

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a very common condition caused when the force of the blood exerted against the blood vessel walls is higher than normal.

High blood pressure has few symptoms, and many people live with the condition without realizing it. Untreated, high blood pressure can lead to complications and serious health conditions, but it can be treated and managed with lifestyle changes and medication.

Have you considered clinical trials for High blood pressure?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for High blood pressure, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

How many people have high blood pressure worldwide?

High blood pressure cases vary between countries and regions, but a recent study estimated that globally, 32% of women and 34% of men¹ between the ages of 30 and 79 have the condition — that’s over a billion people.

Cases of mild and moderate high blood pressure rarely have symptoms, so the condition can be difficult to detect in people who don’t have access to routine medical check-ups. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that about 46%² of adults with high blood pressure don’t know they have it, and less than half of those with the condition are diagnosed and treated. Only one in five have their high blood pressure under control.

These statistics include people from various socioeconomic backgrounds with different access to healthcare, meaning some people are less aware of the condition and have less chance of being diagnosed.

How many people have high blood pressure in the US?

High blood pressure is more common in the US than in many other countries, with nearly half of adults³ living with the condition. Only one in four people with high blood pressure in the US have it under control.

So why is high blood pressure so common in the US?

  • Older population (the risk of hypertension  increases with age)

  • Unhealthy eating habits and obesity are common

  • High diagnosis rates

What are the risk factors for high blood pressure?

Some risk factors increase your risk of developing high blood pressure, including:

Age

Your risk of developing hypertension increases with age, particularly isolated systolic hypertension.

Gender

Younger men are more likely to have high blood pressure than women, but this risk shifts after menopause.

Ethnicity

High blood pressure is more common in some ethnicities, including African American and Hispanic people. Instead of being caused by genetics, research⁴ suggests that factors like access to social support and stress caused by discrimination increase risk.

Family history

People with close family members⁵ who were diagnosed with high blood pressure before the age of 60 have double the risk of having the condition themselves.

Unhealthy diet

Consuming too much salt (mainly found in processed foods) and unhealthy fats increases your risk of developing high blood pressure. An unhealthy diet could also lead to obesity, another common risk factor.

Medications

Long-term use of some medications may increase your risk of high blood pressure, including antidepressants, decongestants, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and hormonal contraceptives.

Other factors that increase your risk of high blood pressure include:

  • Physical inactivity

  • Smoking

  • Excessive alcohol consumption

  • Shift work

  • Stress

High blood pressure during pregnancy (preeclampsia) may also increase your risk of developing hypertension at another time.

The majority of people with high blood pressure have primary hypertension. Secondary hypertension is caused by underlying health conditions like diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, high cholesterol, and heart and kidney problems.

What are the dangers of untreated high blood pressure?

Many people with high blood pressure don’t know they have it, so they don’t receive treatment. For others, treatment is ineffective or not used properly.

Left untreated, high blood pressure eventually leads to significant organ damage and health risks, including:

  • Heart failure

  • Irregular heartbeat

  • Heart attack

  • Stroke

  • Kidney failure

  • Vascular dementia

  • Peripheral arterial disease (can cause erectile dysfunction and pain, numbness, or weakness in the legs)

  • Hypertensive retinopathy (occurs when blood vessels in the retina are damaged and blood supply to the retina is gradually reduced, leading to vision problems and eventually blindness)

Keeping your blood pressure under control is vital for your long-term health. The condition can get worse over time, but treatments and lifestyle changes can slow the progression and reduce the risk of complications.

Treating high blood pressure with lifestyle changes

Doctors usually suggest lifestyle changes as a first-line treatment for high blood pressure, as some people can bring their blood pressure under control without medication. Lifestyle changes can also make medication more effective if you take it.

Lifestyle strategies doctors typically recommend include:

Reduce salt intake

You can reduce your salt intake by limiting or avoiding restaurant food, takeout, and salty processed foods. Try not to add salt to the food you make at home — instead, you could use herbs and spices to add flavor to dishes.

Keep active

150 minutes of moderate exercise each week are recommended⁶ to avoid high blood pressure. This doesn’t mean you have to join a gym or get a personal trainer; something simple like a brisk walk or cycle can be effective. An enjoyable active hobby like tennis or swimming can help you get enough exercise without it feeling like a chore, and many people find exercising with others helps them stick to their routine.

Change your diet

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is designed to help lower blood pressure. It includes eating more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and potassium-rich foods while limiting your intake of saturated fats (including fatty meats), full-fat dairy products, tropical oils, sweets, and salty foods. The DASH diet is very sustainable because it’s unrestrictive and easy to follow.

Maintain a healthy weight

Doing your best to maintain a healthy weight can help keep your body healthy and lower blood pressure.

Limit or avoid alcohol

Limiting or avoiding alcoholic drinks⁷ can help lower blood pressure. Try to limit drinking to special occasions, and if you do drink daily, don’t exceed two drinks per day for men and one drink for women.

Reduce stress and anger

A study⁸ found the risk of high blood pressure increases if you don’t have a coping mechanism for anger. Feeling stressed can raise your blood pressure, and management techniques such as meditation can help. Consider talking to a trained therapist if you regularly feel stressed.

Get enough high-quality sleep

Studies⁹ suggest that sleep deprivation or sleeping for an excessively long time can increase your risk of high blood pressure. This risk factor is more significant for women.

If you snore, consider speaking to your doctor or a specialist to rule out sleep apnea, a condition that can cause high blood pressure. Practice good sleep habits such as going to bed at the same time each day, keeping your bedroom dark and cool, and not taking your phone or book to bed.

These habits can help prevent high blood pressure, particularly if you have a high risk.

When to speak to your doctor about high blood pressure

Mild and moderate hypertension rarely have symptoms, and many people discover they have the condition during a routine health check-up.

Blood pressure can be normal on one occasion and high on another — this is often due to increased anxiety around medical professionals, so you might want to consider home monitoring to consistently keep an eye on your blood pressure.

Aim to get your blood pressure checked at least once a year. If you have a high reading, your doctor might ask you to come in for multiple check-ups. A diagnosis usually happens after three or more elevated readings.

The lowdown

Over 40% of adults in the US have high blood pressure, which is higher than the worldwide average of around 30%. This is partly caused by the prevalence of obesity, old age, and high-sodium diets. You should get yourself checked for high blood pressure regularly — at least once a year or more if you are at risk because of genetics or your age.

Even if you don’t have high blood pressure, you should try to make changes to your lifestyle to improve your overall health and decrease your risk. Lifestyle strategies, like reducing your salt intake, keeping active, and managing stress are also helpful if you have diagnosed hypertension.

Have you considered clinical trials for High blood pressure?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for High blood pressure, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Joining community groups and exercise programs for my condition made me feel empowered – but I want to be part of finding a cure.
Peter, 64


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