How Many People Have High Blood Pressure in the U.S. (and Is It on the Rise)?

You probably know by now that heart disease is the No. 1 killer in the U.S. for both men and women. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes one out of every four deaths is related to heart disease, and that amounts to around 610,000 people. And having high blood pressure greatly increases your risk of developing this life-threatening condition.

If you have high blood pressure, you’re certainly not alone. Millions in the U.S. do — and many don’t even know it.

The number of people in the U.S. with high blood pressure

A doctor checks a patient's blood pressure.

A doctor checks a patient’s blood pressure. | iStock.com/AndreyPopov

It’s important to know what exactly we’re referring to when we talk about high blood pressure. It’s natural for your blood pressure to rise and fall throughout the day, the CDC says, but when the force of blood is continually too high against your artery walls, this can cause major internal damage. Additionally, this condition is often referred to as a “silent killer” due to its lack of symptoms.

High blood pressure is extremely common as well. About 75 million U.S. adults in the U.S. have it, which amounts to one in every three people. Scarily enough, many young people also have high blood pressure. And only about 54% of those who have been diagnosed have control over the condition, meaning the remaining 46% are at a significantly increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Aside from the U.S., China, India, Indonesia, and Russia are other countries known for having many citizens with dangerously high blood pressures.

Is the number increasing?

While we know more about high blood pressure than ever before, there’s also evidence that it’s on the rise worldwide. WebMD relays information from HealthDay News that says from 1990 to 2015, the number of people with high blood pressure and elevated blood pressure has increased.

A normal range for blood pressure is considered less than 120/80 mm Hg. And though those with blood pressures at 110 to 115 mm Hg aren’t considered to be in the danger zone just yet, it is a sign that they could develop high blood pressure in the future. And studies are continuing to find that those with blood pressures in this prehypertension range are rising, too.

So, why is it on the rise? It seems unhealthy diets, higher weights, and aging populations are to blame. Blood pressure naturally rises with age, but for younger folks, lifestyle changes could do a world of good. Additionally, with more people living in cities and working desk jobs, physical activity is at a minimum for many.

What you can do to decrease your risk

Spinach leaves

Spinach leaves on a table | Vkuslandia/iStock/Getty Images Plus

If you already have high blood pressure, your doctor may recommend medications to help. But if you have prehypertension or want to make sure you never develop the condition, here are a few recommendations:

Regularly exercise (or at least walk around): If you work a desk job, you’d be surprised by how little you may be getting up and moving around. Make sure at least once an hour you’re moving your legs. Try going for a midday lunch break walk, too.

Eat potassium-rich foods: You know junk food is a no-go when it comes to high blood pressure. But aside from putting away the processed goods, you should also aim to get more potassium in your diet. Bananas, spinach, white beans, potatoes, and avocados are all great options.

Cut the alcohol: Love happy hour? You might want to start skipping it if your blood pressure is in question. Limit drinking to just once or twice a week if you can’t go without alcohol altogether.

Meditate for 10 minutes daily: The benefits of meditation are numerous, and while it’s certainly good for your brain, it’s also helpful for your body. Lowering your stress levels is key to managing your blood pressure, and just 10 minutes of meditation per day can greatly help with this. If you don’t know where to begin with meditation, consider downloading apps to help, like The Mindfulness App or Headspace.

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