The need to prevent and control high blood pressure (HBP), including so-called "mild" hypertension [diastolic blood pressure (DBP) 90-104 mm Hg in adults age 30+] stems from the extensive data on the increased risks due to these common blood pressure (BP) levels, including risk of catastrophic cardiovascular events (coronary, cerebrovascular, etc.), both nonfatal and fatal. Prospective population data from the national cooperative Pooling Project and the Chicago Heart Association Detection Project in Industry illustrate the extensively documented facts. They also show that only a small minority of middle-aged and older Americans have optimal low-normal BP levels, i.e., DBP < 80 mm Hg (SBP < 120). Thus, the problem of BP above optimal level for health over a long life span is a population-wide problem. The data also show that the great majority of excess catastrophic events attributable to elevated BP occur among people with DBP 90-104 and 80-89 mm Hg, levels very common in the population. Most people with such BP levels also have one or more other major risk factors (e.g., hypercholesterolemia, cigarette use, ECG abnormalities) and thus are at markedly increased risk, both relative and absolute. In addition to these excess risks for major illness, disability, and death, people with BP above optimal levels are more highly prone to other events, clinical and subclinical, that have adverse effects on longterm prognosis, including development of target organ damage and severe hypertension. These data lead to the following inferences about medical care and public health strategy: (a) A key task is, by safe nutritional-hygienic means, to shift the entire population distribution of BP downward, for both primary and secondary prevention of HBP. Such means include prevention and control of obesity, high sodium and alcohol intake, and sedentary habit, from early childhood on. (b) People with DBP 80-89 mm Hg need to be identified promptly, with institution of nutritional-hygienic measures to prevent development of frank hypertension and to correct other risk factors. (c) People with DBP 90-104 and higher need to be identified promptly, with institution of measures to normalize BP and control other major risk factors, by nutritional-hygienic means alone whenever possible or in combination with drug treatment for HBP when necessary to prevent organ system damage, serious illness, disability, and premature death. Progress in the implementation of these strategic approaches has contributed to substantial declines in the epidemic death rates from the major cardiovascular diseases and from all causes among the middle-aged and elderly of both sexes and all ethnic groups in the United States during the 1970s and early 1980s. Their further pursuit has the potential to contribute importantly to maintenance and intensification of these declines over the remaining years of the 20th century.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health