Each year, hypertension is responsible for up to 8.5 million deaths worldwide. Many adults don’t know they have this very common condition until it’s too late.

Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure. The clinical definition of hypertension is a blood pressure reading that’s greater than 130/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) (stage 1) or 140/90 mm Hg (stage 2).

Often referred to as a “silent killer,” high blood pressure may not have any symptoms. When blood pressure is high, it may damage your heart and blood vessels. This condition may increase a person’s risk of developing heart disease or having a stroke.

Here’s more about how many people are affected by hypertension, why the prevalence is so high, and what measures you can take to prevent it.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) share that nearly 120 million people in the United States have hypertension. This is roughly half (48.1%) of adults.

Men have a higher rate of hypertension than women (50% versus 44%, respectively). Only 1 in 4 have their high blood pressure under control. Of the people who don’t have their blood pressure under control, 37 million (45%) have readings of more than 140/90 mm Hg.

Researchers have also recently discovered that the worldwide prevalence of hypertension has doubled since 1990. Nearly 1.3 billion people across the globe have high blood pressure.

Men with hypertension317 million652 million
Women with hypertension331 million626 million

Again, many people don’t know they have hypertension. So, the actual number may be higher than recorded.

Why is the prevalence of hypertension so high?

High blood pressure isn’t a universally common condition. It tends to be more concentrated in certain geographic regions.

In the United States:

Highest rate of hypertensionLowest rate of hypertension
? Mississippi
? Louisiana
? Arkansas
? Oklahoma
? Massachusetts
? Connecticut
? California
? Vermont

In other parts of the world, Canada and Peru have the lowest rate of hypertension for both men and women.

Researchers uncovered that the highest rates of hypertension are in central Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, southern Africa, and certain countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Experts share that obesity and associated lifestyle factors — such as a high-sodium diet, low potassium intake, and too little exercise — may be linked to high levels of hypertension.

It’s worth noting that the effects of weight discrimination can also contribute to negative health effects.

Other reasons for increased prevalence may have to do with income level, race, and access to healthcare.

People ages 60 years and over are more likely to have hypertension. As a trend, the rate of high blood pressure increases with age.

Age (years)Hypertension rate

Regardless of the prevalence, it’s important to receive a diagnosis of hypertension at any age. Addressing high blood pressure can decrease a person’s risk of developing heart disease and related complications. The longer a person has hypertension, the greater the risk.

High blood pressure may have a genetic link. But lifestyle changes can help prevent hypertension in some people.

Eat healthy foods

A diet high in salt may raise your blood pressure. A balanced diet with plenty of fresh produce and foods that are high in protein, fiber, and potassium may help.

For some people, changing their diet alone may be enough to prevent hypertension.

Maintain a moderate weight

Having overweight can increase your risk of developing hypertension. Try to talk with a doctor about a realistic weight goal. Some doctors may suggest getting your body mass index (BMI) within “normal” range with diet and exercise.

Move your body

Adults should aim to get 150 minutes of moderate physical exercise each week. This includes activities like brisk walking, cycling, and swimming. When broken out across the week, that’s around a half hour of exercise each day.

Consider quitting smoking

Smoking may put you at higher risk of developing hypertension. And if you already have high blood pressure, smoking also increases the risk of developing complications, such as a heart attack.

For support stopping, visit smokefree.gov or text QUIT to 47848.

Limit alcohol

You don’t have to stop drinking your favorite wines and beers, but try to pay attention to how much you’re consuming. To prevent hypertension, men will want to stick with two drinks or fewer each day. For women, the CDC recommends just one drink a day.

Prioritize sleep

Sleep affects the health of your heart and blood vessels. Not getting enough may increase the risk of hypertension, stroke, and heart disease. Adults ages 18–60 years need at least 7 hours of sleep each night. People ages 60 years and over need more like 7–9 hours a night.

Consider making an appointment with a doctor if you have concerns about your blood pressure. Hypertension doesn’t always cause symptoms, so getting your reading regularly is key to avoiding complications such as heart disease and stroke.

The good news is that lifestyle changes may prevent high blood pressure or even lower your blood pressure. If not, there are drugs a doctor can prescribe to keep your pressure within normal range.

Language matters

You’ll notice that the language used to share stats and other data points is pretty binary, fluctuating between the use of “men” and “women.”

Although we typically avoid language like this, specificity is key when reporting on research participants and clinical findings.

Unfortunately, the studies and surveys referenced in this article didn’t report data on, or include, participants who were transgender, nonbinary, gender nonconforming, genderqueer, agender, or genderless.

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