How common is high blood pressure?

By: Elizabeth Scherer

Blood Pressure Statistics

  • According to the World Health Organization, high blood pressure is the most common cardiovascular disease worldwide.
  • High blood pressure affects about 20% of the world's adult population.
  • Fifty million Americans - or 1 in 4 - have high blood pressure.
  • One third of those with high blood pressure don't know it.

How damaging high blood pressure is to you often depends on how high your blood pressure numbers are, which determines the stage you are in. Doctors classify high blood pressure in three ranges - stage 1, stage 2, and stage 3 - with each category having higher blood pressure readings. If left untreated, even blood pressure that is in the high to normal range can reduce your life span by two to four years. Some experts estimate that uncontrolled stage 1 to stage 2 high blood pressure will take as much as 16 years off the life expectancy of the average 35-year-old.

High blood pressure is a major contributing factor in many strokes and heart attacks. Strokes are the third leading cause of death in the U.S. A stroke occurs when a blood vessel supplying the brain ruptures or is blocked and brain cells begin to die. Heart attacks are the leading cause of death in the U.S. A heart attack can occur when blood vessels that supply the heart are blocked, causing heart cells to die.