Blood Pressure Rising in U.S. Women
BP Numbers Have Been on the Decline Since the 1970s, but Downward Trend May Be Reversing in Women
WebMD News Archive
Feb. 11, 2008 -- Fewer American women have their blood
pressure under control, and men aren't doing much better.
That's according to a new analysis showing that the proportion of American
women with systolic blood pressure greater than 140 increased by an estimated
4.3% between the early 1990s and the early 2000s. For American men, it
declined by an estimated 2%.
Those numbers may not sound like much of an increase, but blood pressure had
been declining since the 1970s for both men and women. That downward trend now
appears to be reversing in women and stagnating in men, the researchers
For the study, the researchers examined data from the National Health and
Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and the Behavioral Risk Factor
Surveillance System (BRFSS). They focused on adults aged 30 and older.
They then compared actual systolic blood pressure with self-reported high blood
pressure. If someone said they had high blood pressure, the researchers
checked to see if the individual was taking medication for it. Blood pressure was considered
uncontrolled if systolic blood pressure was 140 or higher.
Systolic blood pressure is the top number of a blood pressure reading. A
blood pressure reading of less than 120/80 is considered normal.
Consistently high blood pressure makes the heart work harder. Controlling
hypertension (high blood pressure) may help prevent heart
attack, stroke, heart
failure, kidney failure, and other health problems.
Blood pressure can be controlled through lifestyle changes and
(Why do you think that women
are more at risk for hypertension these days? Share your thoughts on
Hypertension: Support Group board.)
Women's Blood Pressure Rising Across the U.S.
No matter where they lived, women -- especially those 60 and older -- had
higher uncontrolled hypertension than men. According to the researchers'
estimates, it increased the most (6%) in Idaho and Oregon, and the least
(3%) in Washington, D.C., and Mississippi.
For men, states with the highest rates of uncontrolled blood pressure were
New Mexico and Louisiana; the best-performing states were Vermont and
Washington, D.C., Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, Georgia, and South
Carolina had the highest overall rates of uncontrolled high blood pressure. In
these states, 18% to 21% of men and 24% to 26% of women had uncontrolled high
Vermont, Minnesota, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Iowa, and Colorado had the
lowest overall rates -- 15% to 16% of men and about 21% of women.
"The variation in increases should be interpreted with caution, Majid
Ezzati, PhD, the study's lead researcher, says in a news release. "We can't
tell from our study why this is happening. It could be that the states have
done a better job in their public health efforts to reduce hypertension or it
could be that rates are already so high that they didn't have much higher to
go." Ezzati is an associate professor of international health at the
Harvard School of Public Health.
The study appears in the Feb. 11 issue of the journal