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Study: Majority of Middle-Aged Americans at Risk of Developing Hypertension. (Research Notebook)

FDA Consumer, May-June 2002 | Go to article overview

Study: Majority of Middle-Aged Americans at Risk of Developing Hypertension. (Research Notebook)


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 in part to improved treatment.

"Ninety percent is a staggering statistic and cause for concern," says Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson. "This finding should energize Americans to take steps to protect themselves against high blood pressure."

"Americans have to better understand their risk of developing high blood pressure," agreed NHLBI Director Claude Lenfant, M.D. "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."

According to Lenfant, high blood pressure is easily diagnosed and can be prevented by adopting certain lifestyle measures--don't smoke, follow a healthy eating plan that includes foods lower in salt and other sources of 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.

The study, based on data from the NHLBI's landmark Framingham Heart Study (FHS), appears in the Feb. 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.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a measure of the force of blood within blood vessels. It is recorded as two numbers--the systolic (the force of the blood as the heart beats) over the diastolic (the force of the blood as the heart relaxes between beats).

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