High Blood Pressure Facts and Statistics: What You Need to Know

Almost half of all Americans develop high blood pressure—or hypertension—during their lifetime. Some people have this problem without realizing it, and others experience serious complications.

In this article, you will learn how high blood pressure is defined, its causes and risk factors, as well as treatment options and possible complications.

Healthcare provider taking a senior man's blood pressure in his home.

MoMo Productions / Getty Images

High Blood Pressure Overview

High blood pressure is characterized by repeated blood pressure measurements of 130/80 mm/Hg (millimeters of mercury) and above. A single reading above this threshold isn't enough to diagnose you with high blood pressure, but the mean reading over three days of measurements is.

If your blood pressure is elevated in your healthcare provider's office, you may be asked to take readings at home for several days. Results are ranked into several categories.

  • Normal blood pressure reading: 120/80 mmHg
  • Elevated blood pressure: 120–129/80 mmHg
  • Stage 1 high blood pressure: 130–139/80-89 mmHg
  • Stage 2 high blood pressure: 140/90 mmHg and above

These numbers indicate the amount of force your blood puts on the walls of your blood vessels with each heartbeat. When your blood pressure is higher, it's a sign that your heart is working harder to pump blood through your body and bring it back to the heart.

The force and the friction this high pressure creates can cause stretching and tears in your blood vessels, in addition to the damage to your overall cardiac and circulatory systems.

How Common Is High Blood Pressure?

About half of all Americans develop high blood pressure at some point in their lifetimes, but prevalence can vary based on gender, race, age, and where you live. Self-reported rates of high blood pressure prevalence are in counties in the following states:

  • Mississippi
  • Louisiana
  • Arkansas
  • Oklahoma
  • Texas
  • Kentucky
  • Tennessee
  • Alabama
  • Georgia
  • South Carolina
  • North Carolina
  • Virginia
  • Maine
  • Michigan

However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that only about 1 in 5 people with high blood pressure know about their condition, and just 1 in 4 people with a high blood pressure diagnosis have the problem under control.

High Blood Pressure by Ethnicity

Ethnicity and race play a major role in the development of high blood pressure. Hypertension is most often diagnosed in people of non-Hispanic Black backgrounds, with 57.1% of people in this group affected. In comparison, 43.6% of non-Hispanic Whites and 43.7% of Hispanic adults have hypertension.

Blood pressure control also varies by ethnicity, according to the CDC. Non-Hispanic Whites score highest, with about one-third having control over their blood pressure with medication. That number drops to about one-fourth for non-Hispanic Black adults and Hispanic adults.

High Blood Pressure by Age & Gender

High blood pressure becomes more common as we age, and men are at a higher risk for it than women. According to CDC, the rates of high blood pressure—regardless of age—were about 51% for men compared to almost 40% for women.

In terms of age, the CDC found that diagnoses of hypertension increased with age, with:

  • 22.4% of cases in adults aged 18 to 39
  • 54.5% of cases in adults aged 40 to 59
  • 74.5% of cases in adults aged 60 and up

Causes of High Blood Pressure and Risk Factors

Aside from race, gender, and age, there are a number of other contributors to high blood pressure, including:

  • Diets high in salt or fat
  • A lack of exercise or regular activity
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy

Additional factors that can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure can include:

  • Cigarette smoking
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Low intake of vegetables and fiber
  • Lack of sleep
  • Chronic stress

What Are the Mortality Rates for High Blood Pressure?

High blood pressure is a contributor to many of the leading causes of death in the United States. The overall mortality rate for hypertension on its own is 12.7 deaths for every 100,000 people. However, hypertension is also linked to several of the other top 15 causes of death in America, including heart disease and stroke.

Screening and Early Detection

Early detection of high blood pressure is possible with regular screenings and preventive care from your healthcare provider. If recognized early, elevated or high blood pressure can be treated with lifestyle modifications such as diet changes, weight loss, and regular exercise.

If these changes aren't enough to lower your blood pressure, your provider may recommend controlling your blood pressure with a combination of lifestyle changes and prescription medications. Compliance with treatment strategies early on in hypertension can help prevent damage to other body systems like the heart and kidneys.

Summary

High blood pressure is often called the "silent killer." Despite the fact that roughly half of Americans have blood pressure, the problem often develops—and gets worse—undetected. Undiagnosed and untreated hypertension can cause serious complications, and even increase your risk of death. Talk to your healthcare provider about prevention advice, and your individual risk factors for high blood pressure.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Facts about hypertension.

  2. Bello NA, et al. Number of measurements needed to obtain a reliable estimate of home blood pressure: Results from the improving the detection of hypertension study. JAHA, October 2018;7(20). doi:10.1161/JAHA.118.008658.

  3. American Heart Association. What is high blood pressure?.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hypertension prevalence among adults aged 18 and over: United States, 2017–2018.

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. High blood pressure symptoms and causes.

  6. National Institutes of Health. High blood pressure and older adults.

  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Underlying cause of death, 1999-2020 results.

By Rachael Zimlich, BSN, RN
 Rachael is a freelance healthcare writer and critical care nurse based near Cleveland, Ohio.