In 2015, 34.5 percent (more than 255,000 people) of Delaware residents age 18 and older reported they had been told by a health care professional that they have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension.
Hypertension is a condition caused by increased force of blood pushing against the artery walls. When blood pressure remains high over extended periods of time, it can damage the heart and cause other health problems. It is known as the “silent killer” because there usually are no symptoms. In some rare cases, it can cause headaches and vomiting. However, the only way to know if someone has hypertension is to have a health professional measure blood pressure over time.
The Delaware Behavior Risk Factor Survey (BRFS) asks questions about hypertension awareness in odd-numbered years. Prevalence has remained steady for the past five years—34.8 percent in 2011, 35.6 percent in 2013, and 34.5 percent in 2015. There is no statistically significant difference in prevalence between men (35.9 percent) and women (33.2 percent).
In 2015, African-American adults (39.9 percent) had a slightly (but not significantly) higher prevalence of reported hypertension than non-Hispanic white adults (35 percent).
Hypertension prevalence increases with age. Of those Delaware adults who were told by a health professional they had hypertension:
As education and income increases, the prevalence of hypertension decreases. Among Delaware adults with a high school diploma or GED, 38.6 percent report being diagnosed with hypertension, compared with only 30.7 percent of those with a college degree. Likewise, 40 percent of adults in the lowest income category say they have high blood pressure, compared with about 31 percent of adults with incomes higher than $50,000 a year.
There are no differences in prevalence of hypertension observed between Delaware adults who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered (LGBT) compared to heterosexual gender-conforming Delaware adults.
Risk factors for hypertension include health conditions, lifestyle risks, and family history or genetics.
Conditions: Diabetes is known to be associated with hypertension. Of Delaware adults with diabetes, 73 percent also report being told by a health professional they have hypertension.
Behavior: Behavioral risk factors include poor diet, high sodium (salt) intake, physical inactivity, obesity, excessive alcohol consumption, and tobacco use.
For example, smokers are nearly one and a half times more likely than non-smokers to have hypertension. Among adults who are physically inactive, 40.3 percent report having hypertension (compared with 34.5 percent in the general population); and 47.8 percent of obese adults have hypertension.
Family history and genetics: Family history and genetics are likely to play a role in whether an individual develops hypertension. The risk of hypertension can increase when someone who has a family history of hypertension also engages in other behavioral risk factors, such as smoking or physical inactivity.
For some, medication in conjunction with reducing risk factors can be an effective way to control blood pressure.
Of Delaware adults who know they are hypertensive, almost 79 percent are currently taking medication for hypertension. As age increases, so does the prevalence of taking hypertension medication. Of those hypertensive Delaware adults aged 45-54, 70.8 percent report they are currently taking medication, compared to 83 percent of adults aged 55-64, and 95.5 percent of adults aged 65 and older.
Uncontrolled hypertension can cause damage to a number of different organs within the body. These organs include the heart, brain, and kidneys.
There are medications that can help lower and control hypertension, decreasing the risk of complications. If a medicine is prescribed for you, take it as you are instructed. If you reduce risk factors—for example by starting an exercise program or changing your diet—tell your health care team. Your medication may need to be adjusted.