According to a new government analysis, nearly a third of American adults have high blood pressure, putting them at greater risk of stroke, heart attack, kidney failure and other problems.
The obesity epidemic and an aging population are to blame, experts say. Just over a decade ago, closer to one in four Americans had high blood pressure, and two decades ago the rate actually was declining.
About 65 million American adults now have high blood pressure - 30 percent more than the 50 million who did in the previous decade, according to a report published Monday in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association.
"The big message to the American public on that is that we need to pay attention to our lifestyle and those that are overweight need to get slimmer," said Dr. Daniel Jones, dean of the School of Medicine for the University of Mississippi Medical Center and an expert on high blood pressure.
The study didn't examine reasons for the blood pressure spike, but experts said the fact the population is getting older and fatter probably plays a major role.
"It's not surprising because we've seen that Americans are getting fatter, and we know that blood pressure goes up when people gain weight," said Dr. David Goff, an epidemiology expert at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in North Carolina, who was not involved in the analysis, which involved Census Bureau and other health statistics, informs Associated Press.
According to Reuters at least 65 million Americans have hypertension, defined as blood pressure of 140/90 or more, a medical diagnosis of high blood pressure or the use of drugs to lower blood pressure. This equals nearly a third of U.S. adults, the researchers said. They found the number of adults with high blood pressure increased by 30 percent from 1988 to 2000. Blood pressure clearly rises with age and is equally prevalent in women and men. Blacks have a higher risk than other groups.
"It has been demonstrated that interventions that center on health behavior, such as getting regular physical activity, controlling weight, and eating a nutritious diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables and moderate amounts of salt, can reduce a person's chances of developing high blood pressure," said Fields, currently an associate professor of medicine at Washington University in St. Louis.