April 01, 2005

Medical Brief

Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Prevalence, Treatment and Control of Hypertension

By Tracy Nelson

For more than 50 years, effective medications have been available for the treatment of hypertension, or high blood pressure. And yet, according to a recent report put out by the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately one in four adults in the United States is living with this disease and does not have it under control.

Due to the fact that hypertension can lead to more serious problems like heart attack and stroke, the CDC has released their national health objectives for 2010.

The objectives include:

• Reducing the number of adults with High Blood Pressure to 16% (currently 28%).

• Increasing the amount of adults with hypertension who are taking steps to control it to 95% (currently 82%).

• Increasing the amount of adults with controlled blood pressure to 50% (currently 18%).

For this study, hypertension is “defined as having an average systolic blood pressure greater than or equal to 140 mm Hg or diastolic blood pressure greater than or equal to 90 mm Hg or taking blood pressure medication.”

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) from 1999-2002 determined “that racial and ethnic disparities in awareness of, treatment for and control of hypertension persist.”

“The results of this survey are sad but true, confirming numerous earlier surveys,” said Dr. Daniel T. O’Connor from the UCSD School of Medicine. “Hypertension is far more common in certain ethnic groups (especially African Americans), and only a small fraction of patients with hypertension are now effectively treated.”

This is especially true for non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics, who showed the greatest increase in HBP.

Only 29% of U.S. adults with hypertension had controlled blood pressure levels, according to the study. This refers to those that know they have high blood pressure but are taking steps to manage it. The amount with controlled blood pressure was similar among non-Hispanic blacks (29.8%) and non-Hispanic whites (29.8%) but substantially lower among Mexican Americans (17.3%).

In order to meet the objectives set by the CDC, public health efforts must continue to promote awareness of High Blood Pressure and focus on prevention, treatment and control of the disease.

Tracy Nelson is an intern with the UCSD San Diego EXPORT Center and a journalism student at Point Loma Nazarene University. The San Diego EXPORT Center is a partnership of organizations focusing on community minority health and health disparities research.

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