April 9, 2013 – 9:57 am
One in five Americans are completely unaware that they are at risk for the second leading cause of premature death: high blood pressure. In the first ever analysis of awareness, treatment, and control of hypertension for every county, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington revealed significant differences across the US.
The study found the largest burden of hypertension in the southeast, the lowest prevalence in Colorado, and differences among genders, ethnic groups and geographies. But despite high prevalence of hypertension in the southeast, the region also had the highest levels of treatment, suggesting a major step forward.
The findings are published in an article titled “Prevalence, awareness, treatment, and control of hypertension in United States counties, 2001-2009″ in the journal PLOS ONE.
IHME analyzed hypertension data by county, sex, and race for adults over 30 in the US from 2001 to 2009. Across US counties, the median rate of hypertension prevalence for men in 2009 was 37.6% and county-level rates ranged from 26.5% in Eagle County, Colorado, to 54.4% in Holmes County, Mississippi. For women, the median rate of hypertension prevalence in US counties in 2009 was 40.1% with 28.5% in Pitkin County, Colorado, to 57.8% in Holmes County, Mississippi.
“The message seems to be getting out in the South, where doctors are doing a good job of helping their patients control their hypertension,” Dr. Mokdad said. “There’s certainly room for improvement, but there have been some great success stories within particular counties.”
In addition to geographic disparities, the study also found disparities due to gender and race. Black men and women had the highest total prevalence of hypertension, at 50.8% and 54.4%, respectively. Prevalence rates for Hispanic men were 38.1% and 42.6% for Hispanic women. The states with the largest disparity between the genders in uncontrolled hypertension were Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and Virginia.
Researchers noted the significant risks of uncontrolled hypertension, which kills one in six adults in the US. IHME’s Global Burden of Disease 2010 study (GBD) found that in 1990 and 2010 high blood pressure ranked second as a cause of premature death for women and third for men.
“This hypertension work shows the power of a disease-burden analysis that delves into the differences within a country,” said IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray. “IHME is in a unique position to produce county-level data that communities can use to evaluate what works locally and help set priorities.”