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High Blood Pressure – Not Just an American Problem

Mon May 07 2012
Mark Muenchrath
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You or someone in your family may have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, or hypertension. About one in three adults in the United States has this condition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with the prevalence rising with age.

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Hypertension is a disease of long duration and generally slow progression, and is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure, and kidney disease.  Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death globally, representing about 30 percent of all deaths worldwide and an even higher share in middle- and low-income countries, according to the World Health Organization.  Hypertension negatively affects older people’s state of health and well-being throughout the world but is preventable and treatable.

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Data from the Study on Global Ageing and Adult Health (SAGE) show hypertension to be by far one of the most common health conditions for those age 50 and older in China, Ghana, India, Mexico, Russia, and South Africa (see Figure). It was the number one chronic condition reported by 50- to 69-year-olds in all countries except India, where it was the second-most common. Among people 70 and older, hypertension was the leading chronic condition in China, Russia, and South Africa. In Russia, almost half of the 50- to 69-year-olds and nearly two-thirds of the 70-and-older population reported this condition.

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Hypertension also had a negative effect on other aspects of the health of older people in SAGE countries. For instance, older people with hypertension in most SAGE countries were more likely to be depressed than those without this chronic condition. In addition, they were more likely to have received outpatient care from a doctor in the 12 months before the survey.

If you are interested in learning more about hypertension and other chronic conditions among the older population in low- and middle-income SAGE countries, please see the Census Bureau’s newly released report Shades of Gray: A Cross-Country Study of Health and Well-Being of the Older Populations in SAGE Countries, 2007-2010, commissioned by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) of the National Institutes of Health.

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