Number of Americans Unaware of Their Hypertension Drops by Half

Marcia Frellick

April 26, 2017

HYATTSVILLE, MD — The number of people in the United States who are unaware they have hypertension has dropped almost by half (46%) since 1999–2002, according to a new report released today by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention[1].

In the latest report, covering 2011–2014, 15.9% of adults with high blood pressure were not aware they had it. In 1999–2002 that number was 29.5%.

Authors Drs Ryne Paulose-Ram, Qiuping Gu, and Brian Kit (NCHS, Hyattsville, MD) explain that hypertension in this report includes those on medication to control blood pressure or those with a mean systolic blood pressure of 140 mm Hg or higher or mean diastolic reading of 90 mm Hg or higher.

Unawareness among adults with hypertension was defined as answering "no" to the question, "Have you ever been told by a doctor or health professional that you had hypertension, also called high blood pressure?"

More men than women were unaware of their status (19.2% vs 12.9%) and more younger people (aged 18–39) were unaware than older people (aged >60) (30.8% vs 12.5%).

By race, non-Hispanic Asians were the highest-percentage unaware at 24.7%. Hispanics were next at 20.2%; then non-Hispanic white (14.9%); and non-Hispanic black (14.7%).

And those with health insurance were almost twice as likely to know their status: 14.4% were unaware vs 29.7% of the uninsured. Expectedly, as the number of healthcare visits increased, the percentage unaware decreased.

Levels of income or education seemed to have little effect, the authors write.

"The only significant difference was observed between those with incomes at 100%–199% of the federal poverty level (13.5% unaware) and those at or above 400% of the federal poverty level (17.8%)," they explained.

The researchers used 1999–2014 data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which is designed to gauge health and nutritional status of the resident, civilian noninstitutionalized US population. Interviews were conducted in participants' homes and physical assessments, including collecting blood and urine samples, were completed in mobile examination centers.

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