Many in U.S. Have at Least 1 Heart Risk Factor

CDC Releases New Data on Hypertension, High Cholesterol, and Diabetes

By Katrina Woznicki
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Elizabeth Klodas, MD, FACC

April 26, 2010 -- Nearly half of the U.S. population has at least one of three diagnosed or undiagnosed chronic conditions -- high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes -- all major risk factors for heart disease, the leading cause of death among Americans, according to a new CDC study.

Data collected from the ongoing National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey shows that 45% of Americans had one of these three conditions either diagnosed or undiagnosed; 13% of adults had two of these conditions, and 3% had all three conditions. CDC researchers also found that 15% of adults also had one or more of these conditions undiagnosed.

It is well known that high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes all increase the risk for cardiovascular disease, a condition that affects more than 81 million Americans and accounts for one out of every three deaths in the U.S. What is less known is the co-existence of these three conditions based on race/ethnicity, as well as the prevalence of diagnosed vs. undiagnosed high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes among these groups.

The study shows that about 8% of adults have undiagnosed high blood pressure, 8% have undiagnosed high cholesterol, and 3% of have undiagnosed diabetes. The proportion of adults with these undiagnosed conditions was similar across racial/ethnic groups.

The study also shows that:

  • Non-Hispanic blacks had a much higher prevalence of high blood pressure (42.5%) when compared with non-Hispanic whites (29.1%) and Mexican-Americans (26.1%).
  • Non-Hispanic whites had a higher prevalence of high cholesterol (26.9%) when compared with non-Hispanic blacks (21.5%) and Mexican-Americans (21.8%).
  • Mexican-Americans and non-Hispanic blacks had a significantly higher prevalence of diabetes -- 15.3% and 14.6%, respectively, compared with 9.9% among non-Hispanic whites.

The CDC researchers also found that non-Hispanic blacks were more likely than non-Hispanic whites and Mexican-Americans to have at least one of the three conditions either diagnosed or undiagnosed.

The findings could help public health policy authorities develop more targeted prevention and treatment guidelines for diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

The impact of these three conditions individually is substantial:

  • An estimated 18 million Americans have diagnosed diabetes and 5.7 million Americans have undiagnosed diabetes.
  • More than 102 million U.S. adults have elevated cholesterol levels -- meaning a total blood cholesterol measurement of 200 mg/dL or higher -- and 35.7 million among this group have cholesterol levels 240 mg/dL or higher and are considered high risk.
  • High blood pressure accounted for more than 56,000 deaths in the U.S. in 2006; about 74.5 million people age 20 and older have high blood pressure.

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SOURCES: National Center for Health Statistics: "Hypertension, High Serum Total Cholesterol, and Diabetes: Racial and Ethnic Prevalence Differences in U.S. Adults, 1999-2006."

American Heart Association: "Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics," "Cholesterol Statistics," High Blood Pressure Statistics."

American Diabetes Association: "Diabetes Statistics."

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