CDC: 1/3 of U.S. adults have high blood pressure, high cholesterol
February 1st, 2011
12:26 PM ET

CDC: 1/3 of U.S. adults have high blood pressure, high cholesterol

On the heels of the new dietary guidelines being published urging Americans to cut  salt, sugar and saturated fat consumption, a new government report highlights why the attention is warranted. More than one-third of adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure and high levels of bad cholesterol.

High blood pressure and high "bad" (or LDL) cholesterol levels increase the risk of heart disease, the No. 1  killer worldwide, claiming more than 17 million lives each year worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says more than 800,000 Americans die from cardiovascular disease annually, 150,000 of them are under the age of 65.

The CDC released two reports on Tuesday. One focuses on the prevalence of hypertension or high blood pressure among the U.S. adult population – the other looks at how many American adults have high levels of LDL or low-density lipoprotein levels – better known as "bad cholesterol." Both conditions contribute to heart attacks, strokes and other heart diseases. "Treatment for this disease accounts for $1 in every $6 U.S. health dollars spent," according to a CDC press release.

According to the reports, when it comes to high blood pressure:

* 68 million adults 18 and older have high blood pressure or are taking blood-pressure lowering drugs. That's 31% of the adult population.
* only one-third of these patients are getting treatment and less than half of these adults have their hypertension under control
* 86% of adults with uncontrolled high blood pressure have some form of health insurance

When it comes to high levels of bad cholesterol, the numbers aren't very different:

* 71 million or 33.5% of adults 20 and older have high bad cholesterol levels
* 34 million (48.1%) are getting treatment and only 23 million (33.2%) have their cholesterol levels under control
* 82% of those with uncontrolled high cholesterol have some form of health insurance

The United States is not alone on this front. A report by the WHO, also released on Tuesday finds many people living in England, Germany, Japan, Jordan, Mexico, Scotland, Thailand are also unaware that they need treatment for their high bad cholesterol levels.

The new study suggests a comprehensive approach is needed to lower these numbers, which in turn can save a lot of lives and money. Better follow-up from health care professionals could help, but individuals have to make changes too.

For example, the average American consumes 3,400 milligrams (mg) of salt each day, according to health officials. The new USDA dietary guidelines suggest those at risk for or who already have high blood pressure, among others, should limit their salt intake to about half a teaspoon or 1,500 mg per day. But they say everyone else should try to stay under 2,300 mg a day. The recommendation for saturated fat intake has remained unchanged at 10% of daily calorie intake.

The American Heart Association thinks the new dietary recommendations do not go far enough, saying in a statement released Monday that it  "is deeply disappointed in the federal guidelines' recommendations on sodium and saturated fat."  The organization says it considers the recommendations a backwards step from the dietary guidelines released in 2005, and claims they are not consistent with USDA/HHS's own Advisory Committee recommendations, released in June 2010."

The new CDC hypertension report seems to validate the AHA's point.  The hypertension study says if people limit their salt intake to the recommended 2,300 mg of per day, 11 million hypertension cases could be reduced.  But if everybody consumed only 1,500 mg of salt per day, a total of 16.4 million Americans could be living without high blood pressure.

These studies are based on data collected from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and are being published Tuesday in the CDC Vital Signs report.

soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. William Ammons

    I have been able to keep my blood pressure down by limiting salt intake. Forget going out to eat at 95% of places – you can easily get 2500 mg or more of salt in something you think is healthy. And if you go for something that's not that healthy – 5000 mg of salt would not be uncommon. It's not much better eating at home. One can of heart healthy Campbells Chicken Noodle soup has 1025 mg of salt.The regular Chicken Noodle soup has 2225 mg of salt. Organic black beans 500 mg of salt. Forget 90% of the deli meats as they are prepared with salt. The bags of frozen chicken breasts have salt added in the water that's added. Most canned prepared veggies has 300 to 600 mg of salt Even a simple Tomato and Basil pasta sauce has 380 mg of salt per serving.

    To the food manufacturers – drop salt in simple basic foods like pasta sauces, beans, veggies etc. Lower salt 25 to 50% in prepared soups and meals.

    To the restaurants – you guy need to do better – way better in getting salt levels down. Until you do my money is staying at home. What you think is healthy is probably not. Example – Red Lobster – baked Potato 730 mg salt, broccoli 200 mg salt. Add a small cup of any soup there, and you are over the 1500 mg daily limit.

    So trying to keep your salt intake down here in the US is almost impossible unless you live on a farm and grow your own food.

    February 1, 2011 at 13:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • R.H

      Red Loster is a place to stay away from menu wise if salt is an issue. We don't eat out much but we got a nice gift card from there so we dinned freely. Oyyyy...We both had the worst MSG hangovers the next several days. The food, at the time, was out of this world but not worth it in the long run. I woke up the next morning to no ankle bones protruding and unable to bend my fingers. My limbs even felt "fat" when I bent them...to which I am not. We both felt suggish. Creeped me out...We got a good laugh out of it though and decided the best things in life aren't always free! Sooo....we shop the outside of the grocery store and cook at home to our bland pallets. Lemon Pepper...can do!

      February 1, 2011 at 15:53 | Report abuse |
    • BigD

      William, you are right on. If you want to limit salt to <1,500mg a day while eating a "normal" three meals, you need to buy it fresh, and prepare it yourself. Almost impossible to do this eating out.

      February 1, 2011 at 16:15 | Report abuse |
    • Keith Mathews

      Panoxol available at Amazon ( or here http://www.panoxol.com) can lower pressure
      spell it right P-A-N-O-X-O-L
      It works quite well. The reason is its 6 all natural ingredients synergistically cause additional Nitric Oxide, a key molecule manufactured by the body, causes vasodilation (an expansion of the internal diameter of blood vessels), which in turn leads to increased blood flow, and thereby improved oxygen transport, delivery of nutrients to the skeletal muscle and a reduction in body blood pressure. This discovery won a nobel peace prize in 1998. Panoxol was derived to keep those Nitric Oxide levels up which keeps pressure down.

      October 27, 2013 at 21:56 | Report abuse |
  2. BadPatient

    try dropping the grain from your diet (especially corn).

    February 1, 2011 at 13:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Why?

      grain has nothing to do with blood pressure.

      February 1, 2011 at 15:36 | Report abuse |
    • BadPatient

      i disagree that grain has nothing to do with blood pressure. i would say that it has everything to do with blood pressure.

      February 1, 2011 at 17:11 | Report abuse |
    • BadPatient

      note that doing what they say never works. it never will. they are telling you wrong. they will sell you drugs instead. and more drugs to deal with those drugs. and they are all convinced that they belong to the club that knows, but they don't.

      February 1, 2011 at 17:25 | Report abuse |
  3. Questions

    Why drop grain (especially corn), and is there anything avail to reduce the impact of salt, its almost impossible to reduce, anything avail to counteract salt?

    February 1, 2011 at 14:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • BadPatient

      corn can be an allergen that causes inflammation (swelling...retaining fluid). damage is done in the swelling. it's so hard to find food that doesn't have corn that it can be a chronic situation. damage to small vessels over time...kidneys. try not eating grain for three days and see if you can pee again. i lose the classic diabetic symptom of frequent urination in small amounts when i stop eating grain (esp. corn, eventually tested positive for allergy to corn). a little bit of salt will drop that swelling (puffing up) for me. salt is a too much or not enough problem. they are only telling you part of the story here.

      February 1, 2011 at 17:10 | Report abuse |
  4. Terence

    Run a lot and sweat the salt out? I think a physiologist can check if that's possible

    February 1, 2011 at 15:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. teja_stypo

    In my opinion, the buildup of bad or LDL cholesterol is the bane on the American culture. People are indulged in the things that are bad or unhealthy for them without even realizing it.

    "The hypertension study says if people limit their salt intake to the recommended 2,300 mg of per day, 11 million hypertension cases could be reduced. But if everybody consumed only 1,500 mg of salt per day, a total of 16.4 million Americans could be living without high blood pressure."

    This just goes to show, that if more people were conscious about what they consumed, there would be a lot less health problems going around.

    February 1, 2011 at 16:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • mjtrout14

      I couldn't agree more! With high cholesterol increasing the potential for heart disease, I don't understand why people are not more concerned and/or conscious about the foods they consume. Perhaps our society needs to be better educated, which can start with young children. As of now, 80% of children who are overweight are more likely to be obese as adults, and our current trends will continue to get increasingly unhealthy. I believe we need to start educating the younger generation, so if it is infact true that people are just now well-informed or conscious of what they are consuming, then we can most certainly change that!

      February 1, 2011 at 16:40 | Report abuse |
    • BadPatient

      it would be interesting to see these studies. more likely they studied everything around the true cause (overconsumption of corn) and are watering down any useful information.

      February 1, 2011 at 17:15 | Report abuse |
  6. BadPatient

    I wouldn't trust anything from AHA.

    February 1, 2011 at 17:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. BadPatient

    When people like the AHA pump out bad information they mess every one up for years (made lots of money for people sending people down the wrong path though), and they have a long history of that. part of why we pay the most for the worst health care in the world.

    February 1, 2011 at 17:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. BadPatient

    food research is the worst. high cholesterol is from carbs...not from eating cholesterol. they were wrong about that too.

    February 1, 2011 at 17:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • iris


      February 1, 2011 at 18:19 | Report abuse |
    • explanation

      carbs, if not burned off through exercise, get stored as fat. but lowering your intake of fat decreases your cholestrol too. don't know why this is so hard for you to grasp. your obsession with corn is odd to say the least. it's true that the avg american diet includes too much carbohydrates but it also incorporates too much of everything- simply, too many calories. cutting your corn intake won't affect your blood pressure, except in the long term by lowering your weight. but in the meantime, you live with increased risk of stroke and heart attack by listening to your insane advice. there are many ways to lower blood pressure: the best are exercise, weight loss, balance nutrition (including lower salt intake). those don't work for the vast majority of americans, so medications are needed.

      February 1, 2011 at 18:46 | Report abuse |
  9. R.H

    Our three 20 somethings cook at home and know how to do it in a healthy fashion. I love that as a Mom....I taught them something that applies to today as it did in my day. Some things just are ingrained from the get go! Teach...this is nothing new. Dietary or otherwise!

    February 1, 2011 at 18:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. jim d.

    the article is confusing. are they saying 1/3 of adults have high blood pressure AND high cholesterol or are they saying
    1/3 of adults have high blood and 1/3 have high cholesterol (not necessarily the same people) if you don't get what i'm asking
    use a venn diagram and write it down.

    February 1, 2011 at 19:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Anne Burnell - Stronger Seniors

    CDC case studies verify that exercise can eliminate or reduce the effects of chronic illness in those over the age of 65- including high blood pressure. Diet is important and salt intake is crucial, but daily exercise plays a critical role in overall health.

    Why is exercise not mentioned here?

    February 3, 2011 at 10:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Jebat Hang

    My bp and cholesterol was borderline. My doctor suggested becoming a vegetarian which I did and now my bp and cholesterol levels are in the very good (optimal) range. Maybe there is something to keeping away from meat.

    November 21, 2011 at 22:58 | Report abuse | Reply
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    • Keith Mathews

      Nitric Oxide, a key molecule manufactured by the body, causes vasodilation (an expansion of the internal diameter of blood vessels), which in turn leads to increased blood flow, and thereby improved oxygen transport, delivery of nutrients to the skeletal muscle and a reduction in body blood pressure. This discovery won a nobel peace prize in 1998. Panoxol was derived to keep those Nitric Oxide levels up which keeps pressure down. you can purchase a 100% all natural iteration in the form of a product called " Panoxol " at Amazon or http://www.trypanoxol.com

      October 27, 2013 at 21:59 | Report abuse |
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