The proportion of Americans reporting they have high blood pressure rose nearly 10 percent from 2005 to 2009, federal health officials said Thursday.
High blood pressure -- or hypertension, a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke -- affects nearly one-third of Americans, said Fleetwood Loustalot, a researcher at the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
About 26 percent of Americans said they had high blood pressure in 2005, and more than 28 percent reported high blood pressure in 2009 -- a nearly 10 percent increase.
"Many factors contribute to hypertension," Loustalot said, including obesity, eating too much salt, not exercising regularly, drinking too much alcohol and smoking.
"What we are really concerned about as well is that people who have high blood pressure are getting treated. Only about half of those with hypertension have it controlled," Loustalot said. "Uncontrolled hypertension can lead to negative health consequences like heart attacks and strokes."
Of the study participants who said they had high blood pressure in 2009, about 62 percent were using medication to control it.
Loustalot said the increase in the prevalence of high blood pressure is largely due to more awareness of the problem.
Another expert talked about what needs to be done to actually lower hypertension rates in the United States.
"Improving awareness, treatment and control of blood pressure is vital to reduce the risk for heart disease and stroke," said Dr. Gregg Fonarow, a spokesman for the American Heart Association and professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles. "All adult men and women should be aware of their blood pressure levels and, if elevated, ensure appropriate treatment."
The report was published in the April 5 issue of the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
People reporting high blood pressure in 2009 ranged from a low of nearly 21 percent in Minnesota to a high of nearly 36 percent in Mississippi.
Wide variations existed by state in terms of how many people take medication to lower their blood pressure, according the report. Nearly three-fourths of Tennessee respondents said they were taking blood pressure medication, compared with about half of those from California, for instance.
Disparities were also seen in age, sex, education levels and race and ethnicity.
Hypertension was significantly higher among seniors, men, blacks and those with less than a high school education compared to younger people, women, Asians and people with higher levels of education, the researchers found.
To get more people to lower their blood pressure, the CDC said more awareness of the problem and sticking to effective treatments are needed, especially in those states where the prevalence of hypertension is high and the number of those taking medications is low.
The CDC used data collected through a telephone survey by state health departments across the country.