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High Blood Pressure

Narrative

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke, which are among the leading causes of death in the United States (see Heart Disease and Stroke). It is defined as a systolic blood pressure (during heartbeats) of 140 mmHg or higher, a diastolic blood pressure (between heartbeats) of 90 mmHg or higher, or current use of blood pressure-lowering medication.

In 2007–2010, 27.5 percent of women were identified as having high blood pressure. This includes 15.6 percent of women with controlled hypertension, who had a normal blood pressure measurement and reported using blood pressure-lowering medication, and 11.9 percent with uncontrolled hypertension, who had a high blood pressure measurement with or without the use of medication. In addition to medication, high blood pressure can also be controlled by losing excess body weight, participating in regular physical activity, avoiding tobacco smoke, and adopting a healthy diet with lower sodium and higher potassium intake.1

The prevalence of hypertension does not vary by sex, but increases with age, affecting approximately 3 out of 4 women aged 65 and older in 2007–2010 (74.4 percent; data not shown in graph images or in data tables on this site). Hypertension also varies by race and ethnicity. Over 40 percent of non-Hispanic Black women had hypertension compared to about 25 percent of non-Hispanic White, Mexican American, and Other Hispanic women. However, both non-Hispanic Black and Mexican American women were more likely to have uncontrolled hypertension than non-Hispanic White women (19.5 and 15.8 versus 10.4 percent; respectively).

Hypertension presents a unique public health challenge because many of those affected are unaware of their condition.2 Among women with uncontrolled hypertension, 44.8 percent had not been previously diagnosed by a health care professional. About half of non-Hispanic White and Mexican American women with uncontrolled hypertension had not been diagnosed (52.5 and 47.9 percent, respectively), compared to only about one-third of non-Hispanic Black women (32.2 percent).

1 American Heart Association. High Blood Pressure. Accessed 10/31/12.

2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vital Signs, Getting Blood Pressure Under Control. Accessed 10/31/12.

Graphs

Data

High Blood Pressure Among Women Aged 18 and Older,* by Race/Ethnicity,** 2007-2010
Race/Ethnicity Percent of Women
Women with Uncontrolled High Blood Pressure Women with Controlled High Blood Pressure Total
*Includes a measured systolic pressure (during heartbeats) of 140mmHg or a diastolic blood pressure (between heartbeats) 90mmHg (uncontrolled hypertension, with or without blood pressure-lowering medication) and normal blood pressure (140/90mmHg) with reported current medication use (controlled hypertension); percentages may not add to totals due to rounding; estimates are age-adjusted.
**The samples of American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and persons of multiple race were too small to produce reliable results. Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2007-2010. Analysis conducted by the Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology and Statistics Program.
Total 11.9 15.6 27.5
Non-Hispanic White 10.4 15.5 25.9
Non-Hispanic Black 19.5 21.9 41.4
Mexican American 15.8 11.5 27.2
Other Hispanic 12.1 11.6 23.7
Diagnosis Status* Among Women Aged 18 and Older with Uncontrolled High Blood Pressure,** by Race/Ethnicity,† 2007-2010
Age Group Percent of Women with Uncontrolled High Blood Pressure
Diagnosed Undiagnosed
*Reported whether they had ever been told by a health professional that they have high blood pressure; estimates are age-adjusted.
**Includes a measured systolic pressure (during heartbeats) of 140mmHg or a diastolic blood pressure (between heartbeats) 90mmHg.
†The samples of Other Hispanics, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and persons of multiple race were too small to produce reliable results. Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2007-2010. Analysis conducted by the Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology and Statistics Program.
Total 55.2 44.8
Non-Hispanic White 47.5 52.5
Non-Hispanic Black 67.8 32.2
Mexican American 52.1 47.9