US Adults Knowledgeable About High Blood Pressure

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Most Americans are knowledgeable about high blood pressure, but less than 50 percent know that it's associated with heart attack and stroke, a survey by the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors (NACDD) has found.

The survey found that 72 percent of Americans are aware of the multiple factors contributing to high blood pressure, including obesity, lack of exercise, salt intake and alcohol consumption. Yet, only 42 percent associate high blood pressure with stroke and heart attack. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, but it can be controlled through medication, diet and exercise, according to the American Heart Association.

The survey also found that 76 percent of Americans are not worried about getting high blood pressure, and that 80 percent of Americans 55 and over also are not concerned. High blood pressure mostly affects middle age and older Americans.

"Only 24 percent of survey respondents are worried about getting high blood pressure," said John Robitscher, NACDD executive director. "But according to the American Heart Association, approximately 33 percent of Americans have the condition. In essence, about 20 million American adults are not worried about getting high blood pressure, but are likely to develop it."

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David P. Hoffman, director, Bureau of Chronic Disease Services, New York State Department of Health, said there is a lack of federal funding for heart disease and stroke prevention, even though heart disease is the nation's No. 1 killer. "Only 34 states and the District of Columbia receive federal funds for heart disease and stroke prevention. The rest must rely on state funding and other resources."

Unlike many conditions, high blood pressure has no symptoms, according to the AHA. In fact, many people have high blood pressure for years without knowing it. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can also lead to heart attack, stroke, heart failure or kidney failure. This is why high blood pressure is often called the "silent killer."

High blood pressure is particularly prevalent in African Americans, middle-aged and elderly people, obese people, heavy drinkers and women taking birth control pills. It may run in families, but many people with a strong family history never develop it. The only way to tell if you have high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure checked regularly.

Among other survey findings:

-- Nearly four in 10 Americans (38 percent) say they do not know their blood pressure reading, and surprisingly, more than one in 5 (22 percent) of older Americans do no know their personal readings.

-- Nearly one in four Americans (24 percent) report being diagnosed with high blood pressure, compared to 37 percent for African-Americans. Two-thirds of African-Americans have high blood pressure, according to the AHA.

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