Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of arteries (blood vessels). Each time the heart beats, it pumps blood through blood vessels, supplying the body's muscles, organs and tissues with the oxygen and nutrients that they need to function. Over the course of a day, an individual's blood pressure rises and falls transiently many times in response to various stimuli. Elevated blood pressure over a sustained period of time is a condition referred to as hypertension (HTN), or high blood pressure.
The American Heart Association estimates that nearly one in three American adults has high blood pressure. Approximately two-thirds of people over the age of 65 have high blood pressure. Of those people with high blood pressure, 71.8% are aware of their condition. Of all people with high blood pressure, 61.4% are under current treatment, 35.1% have it under control, and 64.9% do not have it controlled.
The cause of 90-95% of the cases of high blood pressure is not known; however, high blood pressure is easily detected and usually controllable.
From 1994 to 2004 the death rate from high blood pressure increased 15.5% and the actual number of deaths rose 41.8%.
Non-Hispanic blacks are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure than are non-Hispanic whites.
Within the African-American community, those with the highest rates of hypertension are more likely to be middle aged or older, less educated, overweight or obese, physically inactive, and diabetic.
In 2004, the death rates per 100,000 people from high blood pressure were 15.6 for white males, 49.9 for black males, 14.3 for white females and 40.6 for black females.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the prevalence of hypertension exceeds 10% in developed nations.
High blood pressure increases the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) and stroke (lack of blood and oxygen to the brain), which are the leading causes of death among Americans.
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