TUESDAY, Feb. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Despite some improvements,
far too many Americans have out-of-control blood pressure and
cholesterol levels -- both primary risk factors for heart disease,
federal health officials warn.
According to the latest report from the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, one-third of U.S. adults have hypertension
(high blood pressure), about the same proportion as 10 years
Perhaps more distressing, only 46 percent had the condition
controlled, despite the fact that the majority have some form of
health insurance -- meaning they could be accessing care -- and 70
percent were actually being treated with blood pressure-lowering
The CDC reported similar numbers for cholesterol -- one in three
U.S. adults have high "bad" cholesterol, but only one-third of them
have their cholesterol under control. Only 48 percent are actually
treated for the condition. Again, the majority of those affected
had health insurance, either public or private.
Together, said CDC director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, "100 million
U.S. adults -- or nearly half of all adults in the U.S. -- have
either high blood pressure or high cholesterol."
"Heart disease is the leading killer in America, and high blood pressure and high cholesterol are out of control for most Americans who have these conditions," continued Frieden, who spoke at a Tuesday news conference. "Although there has been progress in the past decade, it hasn't been nearly enough."
Heart disease and stroke cost the country nearly $300 billion a
year in direct medical costs alone, he said, costs that are
projected to triple by 2030.
Dr. Howard Weintraub, clinical director of the Center for the
Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease at NYU Langone Medical Center
in New York City, attributes part of the problem to "therapeutic
inertia," where physicians aren't adequately motivated to treat the
patient, either out of fear that medication could harm the patient
or because they're not familiar with the degree of benefit of the
And, in some cases, effective treatment can even be
counterproductive because some people think cholesterol levels
lowered by statins are "a credit card [that means they can] eat
indiscriminately," he said.
According to two reports published in the Feb. 1 issue of the
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that analyzed data from
the massive National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey
(NHANES), control rates for high blood pressure and high
cholesterol were especially low among Mexican Americans and people
with low incomes.
Not surprisingly, blood pressure and cholesterol levels were
also less well controlled among individuals who did not have health
"Having insurance is necessary but not sufficient to have these conditions controlled," Frieden said. "How likely they are to have this under-controlled is determined by the system they're cared for [rather] than by their personal characteristics, if they have coverage."
The Affordable Care Act offers free screenings for both blood
pressure and cholesterol. Meanwhile, certain health care systems
have managed to improve blood pressure control, and these systems
might be models to emulate, he noted.
Other initiatives, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture
dietary guidelines released Monday and movements to reduce salt and
trans fat intake should also help, he said.
The CDC's just-released "Vital Signs" report on hypertension and
high cholesterol urges a comprehensive approach that involves
improved access to care, better preventive care and better patient
adherence. The agency is also working on initiatives to promote
staying active, eating well and maintaining a healthy weight.
"The leading preventable cause and leading cause of death is cardiovascular disease, and the leading causes of that include high blood pressure and high cholesterol," Frieden concluded. "Although there has been progress in recent years, it's far too little, and still most Americans with these conditions don't have them under control."
The American Heart Association has a tool to help gauge your
risk of heart disease.