NHLBI study shows vast majority of middle-aged Americans at risk of developing hypertension

Middle-aged Americans face a 90 percent chance of developing high blood pressure at some time during the rest of their lives, according to a new study supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

However, the study also had some good news for Americans: The risk of developing severe degrees of high blood pressure has decreased in the past 25 years, due partly to improved treatment.

The study, based on data from NHLBI's landmark Framingham Heart Study (FHS), appears in the February 27, 2002, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke also contributed support to the research.

"Ninety percent is a staggering statistic and cause for concern," said Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson. "This finding should energize Americans to take steps to protect themselves against high blood pressure. By adopting some simple healthy behaviors, most people can reduce their risk of high blood pressure. Prevention gives people the power to protect their health."

"Americans have to better understand their risk of developing high blood pressure," agreed NHLBI Director Dr. Claude Lenfant. "They cannot adopt a wait and see approach. If they do, chances are they will find themselves with high blood pressure and that puts them at increased risk for heart disease and stroke.

"Fortunately," Lenfant continued, "high blood pressure is easily diagnosed and can be prevented by adopting certain lifestyle measuresdon't smoke, follow a healthy eating plan that includes foods lower in salt and sodium, maintain a healthy weight, be physically active, and if you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation. For those who already have high blood pressure, it's important that they properly control it with these lifestyle measures and medication."

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a measure of the force of blood within blood vessels. I

Contact: NHLBI Communications Office
NIH/National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

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