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High Blood Pressure Often Uncontrolled

Problem Especially Seen in Elderly Women
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WebMD Health News

July 26, 2005 -- High blood pressure is common and often uncontrolled, especially in elderly women, a new study shows.

As people age, they are more likely to have high blood pressure and less likely to control the problem, states a report in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Dangerous Condition

High blood pressure raises the odds of heart attack and stroke, among other health problems.

The new study showed that. Heart attacks, strokes, hospitalization for heart failure, or other fatal heart problems were much more common among people older than 80 with above-normal blood pressure.

About one in three American adults has high blood pressure, but nearly a third of them don't know it, states the American Heart Association's web site.

A quick test can check blood pressure. Lifestyle changes (such as a healthy diet, stress control, and exercise) can help. Many patients may also need medication to tame their blood pressure.

As America ages, high blood pressure may become even more widespread, write the researchers. They included Donald Lloyd-Jones, MD, ScM, of the preventive medicine department at Northwestern University's medical school in Chicago.

What Is High Blood Pressure?

Curious about where you stand? Here's a quick guide.

  • High blood pressure: Systolic blood pressure (the first number) of 140 or more, and/or diastolic blood pressure (the second number) of 90 or more.
  • Prehypertension: Systolic blood pressure of 120-139 and/or diastolic blood pressure of 80-89. People with this condition are at risk of developing high blood pressure and should take steps -- lose weight, exercise, and eat a healthy diet -- to help prevent that.
  • Normal adult (aged 18 or older): Systolic blood pressure of 119 or below and diastolic blood pressure of 79 or below.

High Blood Pressure More Common With Age

Data came from nearly 5,300 participants in the Framingham Heart Study, done in the 1990s. Three age groups were used: younger than 60, 60-79, and 80 or older.

High blood pressure became more common with age. Here are the high blood pressure percentages for each age group:

  • Younger than 60: 27%
  • 60-79: 63%
  • 80 and older: 74%

The percentages with normal blood pressure were:

  • Younger than 60: 39%
  • 60-79: 14%
  • 80 and older: 7%

Everyone else had prehypertension. Even people with prehypertension are at increased risk of developing heart problems.

Blood Pressure Risky for Blacks

The study's participants were mainly white. In the U.S., blacks tend to develop high blood pressure at an earlier age and have more severe cases than whites.

Blood Pressure Control Worst in Elderly Women

Few people (32% overall) had gotten their high blood pressure under control. "Control" meant getting blood pressure out of the "high" category, not all the way down to "normal."

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