High Blood Pressure and High Cholesterol
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke because it damages the lining of the arteries, making them more susceptible to the buildup of plaque, which narrows the arteries leading to the heart and brain. About 78 million US adults (1 in 3) have high blood pressure. Only about half (48%) of these people have their high blood pressure under control. About 7 in 10 people who have a first heart attack and 8 in 10 people who have a first stroke have high blood pressure.
Eating too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure. Americans aged 2 years or older consume an average of about 3,400 mg of sodium each day, well over the 2,300 mg recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. More than 70% of the sodium Americans consume is added outside the home (before purchase), not added as salt at the table or during home cooking.
High LDL cholesterol can also double a person’s risk of heart disease. That’s because excess cholesterol can build up in the walls of arteries and limit blood flow to a person’s heart, brain, kidneys, other organs, and legs. Although nearly 86 million US adults could benefit from taking medicine to manage their high LDL cholesterol, only about half (55%) are doing so.
People can improve their blood pressure and cholesterol levels by eating a healthy diet that is low in sodium, being physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, and taking medications as recommended.
CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention (DHDSP) works with partners across government, public health, health care, and private sectors to improve prevention, detection, and control of heart disease and stroke risk factors, with a focus on high blood pressure and high cholesterol. DHDSP also works to improve recognition of the signs and symptoms of a heart attack or stroke and the quality of care following these events.
Through its scientific and programmatic investments, DHDSP advances strategies such as using electronic health records to identify patients at risk and treat them appropriately and caring for patients with teams of clinicians, pharmacists, community health workers, and others outside of the doctor’s office. The division also promotes strategies that link patients to community programs and resources that help them take their medicines consistently, manage their risk factors, and make healthy lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking or losing weight.