That figure is up sharply from what the American Heart Association (AHA) reported last year — largely because of changes in the definition of high blood pressure. In 2017, guidelines lowered the threshold to 130/80 mm Hg, down from the long-used 140/90 mm Hg.
As a result, many more Americans now fall into the high blood pressure category.
In 2016, the new report estimates, about 48 percent of U.S. adults had some form of cardiovascular disease: That included 9 percent who had heart disease or were living with the aftereffects of a stroke. The rest had high blood pressure.
Dr. Emelia Benjamin led the committee that wrote the report, published online Jan. 31 in the AHA journal Circulation.
She said there’s little doubt that high blood pressure is highly prevalent in the United States: the average American has about a 90 percent lifetime chance of developing the condition.
But there are plenty of steps people can take to delay or prevent high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, said Benjamin, a professor at Boston University School of Medicine.
When it comes to exercise, she noted, “I’m not talking about training for the Boston Marathon. You can stop taking the elevator and use the stairs. You can park your car in the furthest spot from the store.”
Focusing on simple, small steps may make lifestyle changes more attainable, Benjamin advised.
Based on the latest statistics, over 121 million Americans had some type of cardiovascular condition in 2016. That’s up from 92 million in last year’s AHA report.
The pervasiveness of that condition is a major concern, according to Dr. Ivor Benjamin, volunteer president of the AHA.
“As one of the most common and dangerous risk factors for heart disease and stroke, this overwhelming presence of high blood pressure can’t be dismissed from the equation in our fight against cardiovascular disease,” he said in an AHA statement.