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A weighty topic: American blood pressure

October 14, 2008 |  1:24 pm

Newpressure

The pressure is on -- because it's from within. That is, Americans in general need to get better at controlling hypertension because the condition is on the upswing.

In a study published online Monday in the journal Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Assn., researchers at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute established that the percentage of Americans with high blood pressure has risen significantly in the last 10 years. We get one guess as to a key reason: obesity.

Using two sets of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1988-1994 and 1999-2004), the researchers came up with a standardized, age-adjusted figure that showed the percentage of Americans with high blood pressure has increased from 24.4% to 28.9%.

One-fifth to four-fifths of that increase, depending on gender and ethnicity, could be linked to a rise in body mass index, they said. Non-Hispanic women were more likely than other groups to have a rise in hypertension rates.

The study also found, however, that treatment and control of the condition have improved. Treatment of the condition rose from 53.1% to 61.4% among those who have it; control of the condition rose from 26.1% to 35.1%. Those numbers don't exactly warrant a declaration of victory over hypertension, but they're signs of progress. Now if everyone else could follow suit ...

Of course, there's still that matter of the rise in the condition overall.

For more on controlling high blood pressure, go to the American Heart Assn. website. There's even a quiz to test your knowledge of the topic. (Lest you doubt how serious it is, note that uncontrolled high blood pressure can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke and kidney failure.) 

A key component of managing high blood pressure is monitoring the condition -- and that now means doing it yourself, not waiting for that occasional visit with your doctor. Here's a recent Los Angeles Times story, Tracking a silent killer, that explains the importance of home monitoring -- with tips on how to do so effectively.

-- Tami Dennis

Photo credit: John Moore /Getty Images

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