October 7, 2020
Surgeon General Releases Call to Action on Hypertension Control
Today, Surgeon General VADM Jerome M. Adams, M.D., M.P.H., issued a Call to Action urging Americans to recognize and address hypertension control as a national, public health priority. The Surgeon General's Call to Action to Control Hypertension provides strategies for those on the frontlines of health care and public health to address this costly, dangerous and far too common chronic health condition.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is often known as a "silent killer," as it frequently has no signs or symptoms. If left uncontrolled, hypertension can increase a person's risk for heart disease, stroke, heart failure, kidney disease, pregnancy complications, and cognitive decline or dementia later in life. However, hypertension is a preventable risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Hypertension is all too common, as nearly 1 in 2 adults have hypertension, yet only about 1 in 4 have it under control. Hypertension care and treatment are also costly, resulting in an estimated $131 billion to $198 billion in medical costs each year.
Currently, there are limited data and information about the impact of underlying medical conditions – including hypertension – on the risk for severe illness from COVID-19. While our understanding of COVID-19 is still improving and evolving, we know that people with hypertension may be at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
We know what works to improve hypertension control: continue to take hypertension medications as directed; continue to practice safe social distancing when being physically active; continue healthy eating; and stay connected to a medical care team. Most importantly, if you are feeling any signs or symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, do not delay medical attention.
"Hypertension is a costly, preventable health condition that disproportionately impacts Black Americans and feeds so many other burdensome conditions, like kidney disease and maternal mortality and morbidity, which we've prioritized under President Trump," said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. "The Surgeon General's call to action on hypertension gives us all solid strategies to fight this 'silent killer' and represents exactly the kind of thinking we need: a healthcare system focused on patients being empowered to control their health and outcomes."
Some subsets of the U.S. population have higher rates of hypertension and lower rates of controlled blood pressure. For example, more than half of Black men and women have hypertension, and only about 20% have it under control. African Americans have higher rates of hypertension than any other racial or ethnic groups. Black men and women also develop hypertension at younger ages and have more severe outcomes than whites. Hypertension rates (based on blood pressure ≥130/80 mm Hg) for non-Hispanic Black adults is 54%; non-Hispanic white adults is 46%, non-Hispanic Asian adults is 39%, and Hispanic adults is 36%. The Surgeon General's Call to Action identifies factors that negatively affect hypertension control in minority populations, including persistent health disparities and inequalities in the distribution of social, economic, and environmental conditions necessary for better health.
"The Surgeon General's Call to Action to Control Hypertension provides a roadmap for helping people, communities, health professionals and others improve the heart health of our nation by working together to eliminate differences in access to quality healthcare and addressing social factors that influence overall health," stated Surgeon General Adams. "Communities can ensure that the places where people live, learn, work, play and pray support hypertension control by promoting access to and availability of physical activity opportunities, healthy food options, and links between clinical services and community programs."
The Surgeon General's Call to Action summarizes recent data on hypertension control for all populations, identifies the 10 most effective strategies for achieving control, and provides recommendations to individuals and organizations that can improve rates of hypertension prevention and control. Among the strategies identified are:
- Increase awareness of health risks;
- Recognize economic burden;
- Eliminate disparities in access to care and health outcomes;
- Promote physical activity opportunities;
- Promote opportunities to access healthy foods and good nutrition;
- Connect to lifestyle change resources;
- Use standardized treatment approaches;
- Promote team-based care;
- Empower and equip patients; and
- Recognize and reward clinicians.
Everyone can improve hypertension control by taking action in our communities and in our healthcare system. As community partners, we all can take deliberate steps to address the social determinants of health necessary to help people in our communities better manage and improve their blood pressure and overall health.
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Last revised: October 16, 2020