High Blood Pressure Education Month—-May 2006 High Blood Pressure Education Month—-May 2006
Center for Disease Control—Cardiovascular Health

May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month. Approximately 65 million persons in the United States have high blood pressure.1 High blood pressure increases the risk for diseases of the heart and stroke, the first and third leading causes of death in the United States, respectively. High blood pressure is estimated to cost more than 63 billion dollars in direct and indirect costs in 2006.

High blood pressure or hypertension is defined as having a systolic blood pressure of 140 mm Hg or higher or a diastolic blood pressure of 90 mm Hg or higher measured on two or more occasions, or taking anti-hypertensive medication. Normal blood pressure levels are considered to be a systolic blood pressure less than 120 mm Hg and a diastolic blood pressure less than 80 mm Hg. Persons with above normal levels (systolic blood pressure of 120–139 mm Hg or diastolic blood pressure of 80–89 mm Hg) but are not hypertensive are considered to have “prehypertension.” These people are at a greater risk of developing hypertension than are persons with normal blood pressure levels.

People should have their blood pressure checked regularly. Lowering high blood pressure can reduce new events and deaths from heart diseases and stroke and can be achieved through lifestyle modifications alone or in combination with prescribed medications.2 Key lifestyle changes include weight reduction and control, adequate physical activity, moderation in alcohol intake, reduced dietary sodium, and increased dietary potassium. Additional lifestyle changes to improve overall cardiovascular health include smoking cessation and reduced intake of saturated fats. The most recent recommendations for the detecting and treating high blood pressure are available from the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure.2

CDC’s Efforts Regarding High Blood Pressure
CDC’s State Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program: CDC currently funds health departments in 32 states and the District of Columbia to develop effective strategies to reduce the burden of heart disease, stroke, and related risk factors. This program emphasizes the need for policy, environmental, and systems changes that promote heart-healthy and stroke-free living and working conditions. For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/cvh/state_program/index.htm.