Nearly half of about 67 million Americans with high blood pressure are not effectively treating their condition and face a high risk of a heart attack or stroke, a U.S. health official said on Tuesday.
About 36 million people have uncontrolled high blood pressure, a condition caused when too much force is exerted by blood as it is pumped through the body and moves against vessel walls, according to a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Tuesday.
"The bottom line is ... most of those in this country who have (high blood pressure) don't have their numbers under control, and because of that we have a very high burden of disease," said Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC.
High blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease and stroke, contributes to nearly 1,000 deaths a day and $131 billion in annual direct healthcare costs, Frieden said.
The condition is the second most serious public health issue. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the country, according to the CDC.
Frieden said patients with high blood pressure are either not receiving a correct combination or dosage of medication or are not keeping up with their medication.
Some doctors are not warning patients who have had multiple readings of high-blood pressure, a problem Frieden said could be solved by better systems to track patients.
Of the 36 million Americans with uncontrolled hypertension, about 14 million were not aware of their condition and about 22 million either chose not to take medication or were on inadequate treatment, according to the report, which surveyed adults between 2003 and 2010.
"I think there's clearly a lot of room for improvement," Frieden said, noting that controlling blood pressure often means taking multiple medications daily for the rest of one's life.
High blood pressure can be prevented through diet, exercise and taking drugs such as beta blockers and ACE inhibitors -- which widen arteries. Lowering blood pressure can cut the risk of stroke, heart attack, heart failure and other conditions.
Risk factors include obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, and chronic difficulties such as diabetes, kidney disease and high cholesterol.