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Pressure's rising: studies show that more people than ever are at risk



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Three new studies re-examined previous health data in light of the new guidelines for prehypertension.

Kurt Greenlund and colleagues from the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, which is part of the CDC, analyzed data from nearly 3,500 adults who took part in the 1999-2000 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The sample reflected a cross-section of the U.S. population.

Among their conclusions:

39.3 percent of those studied had normal blood pressure; 29.4 percent had hypertension and 31.2 percent had prehypertension.

While hypertension rates were nearly equal for men and women (28.4 percent and 30.5 percent), many more men had prehypertension (39.4 percent and 22.9 percent).

Black people had higher rates of hypertension than Anglos (36.3 percent to 29.3 percent), but slightly lower rates of prehypertension (31.3 to 29.8 percent).

Of people over 60, only 10.9 percent had normal blood pressure readings, compared with 59.4 percent of people aged 20 to 39.

People with prehypertension were 1.65 times more likely to have at least one other risk factor for heart disease or stroke, such as high cholesterol, diabetes or excess weight, than people with normal blood pressure.

A second study looked at data from 4,805 adults in the same National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and reached similar conclusions. Two researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago found that:

47 percent of people with normal weights had hypertension or prehypertension. The figure was 60 percent for people classified as overweight, and 76 percent for those regarded as obese.

High blood pressure is becoming more widespread, rising seven percentage points from the previous decade.

A third study pointed to hypertension as a factor in:

9.1 percent of deaths

6.5 percent of nursing-home stays

3.4 percent of hospital stays among people between 25 and 74.

The researchers concluded that reducing blood pressure would bring those numbers down - and leave patients facing fewer health risks.

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(c) 2004, The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.

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