High Blood Pressure, Cholesterol Burden at Least 1 in 4

by Elizabeth Mendes

Those who have a personal doctor more than twice as likely to report having conditions

WASHINGTON D.C. -- An aggregate of over 400,000 interviews conducted from January 2008 through March 2009 finds that Americans, aged 18 and older, are more likely to report having high blood pressure and high cholesterol than any other chronic medical condition in the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. Nearly one-third of American adults (30%) say they have been told by a physician or nurse that they have high blood pressure, and 27% say the same about high cholesterol.

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The survey also finds high incidences of depression, with approximately 37.4 million American adults (17%) reporting that they have been told by a medical professional that they have this condition. Americans are about equally likely to report having diabetes (11%) and asthma (11%).

High Risk Populations -- Key Findings

  • Black Americans (38%) and those aged 65 and older (58%) are the most likely to report having high blood pressure
  • Younger Americans (ages 18-29) are slightly more likely to report having asthma (13%) than any other age group
  • Women (21%) are more likely than men (13%) to report having depression
  • Americans making less than $36,000 annually are more than twice as likely to report having had a heart attack (7%) than those with higher incomes
  • Americans ages 45 and older, those who are black, those living in the South, and individuals making less than $36,000 annually all report diabetes at a higher rate than the national average

Access to Medical Professional Crucial

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index also asks Americans if they have a personal doctor and currently 81% say that they do, while 19% say they do not. Those Americans who say they do have a personal doctor are far more likely to report having each of the chronic medical conditions in the survey.

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While in general, older Americans are more likely to have a personal doctor and are more likely to report having most of the conditions in the survey, the relationship between having the diseases and having a personal doctor holds across all age groups.

Blood pressure
Dwight Woods smiles as nursing student Meghan Welsh takes his blood pressure at Flotrin's Barber Shop in St. Louis on Wednesday, March 18, 2009. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

The difference that having a personal doctor makes in the level at which Americans report having these conditions is striking and could be interpreted in a variety of ways. Amy Neftgzer, Healthways Lead Researcher, finds that typically "individuals who have chronic conditions are more likely to have a personal doctor." She adds, "The higher a person's disease burden, the more likely an individual is to have a personal doctor." On the other hand, this finding could potentially mean that Americans who do not have a personal doctor are more likely to lack awareness of their health problems, a scenario that can lead to higher medical costs and greater health risks in the long run.

Either way, with such a large proportion of Americans reporting having high blood pressure and high cholesterol, the cost of failing to find and treat these conditions could be financially devastating to the U.S. healthcare system. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, heart failure, and kidney disease. The CDC put the estimated direct and indirect cost of high blood pressure alone at $63.5 billion in 2006.

For full demographic information by medical condition please click page 2

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with over 400,000 adults in the United States, aged 18 and older, conducted January 2008 to March 2009 as part of Gallup Poll daily tracking. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±0.2 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

About the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index™

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index™ measures the daily pulse of U.S. wellbeing and provides best-in-class solutions for a healthier world. To learn more, please visit www.well-beingindex.com.

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