Trends in the prevalence of hypertension, antihypertensive therapy, and left ventricular hypertrophy from 1950 to 1989

N Engl J Med. 1999 Apr 22;340(16):1221-7. doi: 10.1056/NEJM199904223401601.


Background: Men and women with hypertension are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease, especially when left ventricular hypertrophy is present. We examined temporal trends in the use of antihypertensive medications and studied the relation between their use, the prevalence of high blood pressure, and the presence of electrocardiographic evidence of left ventricular hypertrophy.

Methods: A total of 10,333 participants in the Framingham Heart Study who were 45 to 74 years of age underwent a total of 51,756 examinations from 1950 to 1989. Data were obtained on blood pressure and the use of antihypertensive medications, and electrocardiograms were assessed for left ventricular hypertrophy. The generalized-estimating-equation method was used to test for trends over time.

Results: From 1950 to 1989, the rate of use of antihypertensive medications increased from 2.3 percent to 24.6 percent among men and from 5.7 percent to 27.7 percent among women. The age-adjusted prevalence of systolic blood pressure of at least 160 mm Hg or diastolic blood pressure of at least 100 mm Hg declined from 18.5 percent to 9.2 percent among men and from 28.0 percent to 7.7 percent among women. This decline was accompanied by age-adjusted reductions in the prevalence of electrocardiographic evidence of left ventricular hypertrophy, from 4.5 percent to 2.5 percent among men and from 3.6 percent to 1.1 percent among women.

Conclusions: Our findings support the notion that the increasing use of antihypertensive medication has resulted in a reduced prevalence of high blood pressure and a concomitant decline in left ventricular hypertrophy in the general population. Our observations may in part explain the considerable decline in mortality from cardiovascular disease observed since the late 1960s.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Antihypertensive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Electrocardiography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / complications
  • Hypertension / drug therapy
  • Hypertension / epidemiology*
  • Hypertrophy, Left Ventricular / diagnosis
  • Hypertrophy, Left Ventricular / epidemiology*
  • Hypertrophy, Left Ventricular / prevention & control
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Antihypertensive Agents