Predominance of isolated systolic hypertension among middle-aged and elderly US hypertensives: analysis based on National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III

Hypertension. 2001 Mar;37(3):869-74. doi: 10.1161/01.hyp.37.3.869.


The purpose of the present study was to examine patterns of systolic and diastolic hypertension by age in the nationally representative National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III and to determine when treatment and control efforts should be recommended. Percentage distribution of 3 blood pressure subtypes (isolated systolic hypertension, combined systolic/diastolic hypertension, and isolated diastolic hypertension) was categorized for uncontrolled hypertension (untreated and inadequately treated) in 2 age groups (ages <50 and >/=50 years). Overall, isolated systolic hypertension was the most frequent subtype of uncontrolled hypertension (65%). Most subjects with hypertension (74%) were >/=50 years of age, and of this untreated older group, nearly all (94%) were accurately staged by systolic blood pressure alone, in contrast to subjects in the untreated younger group, who were best staged by diastolic blood pressure. Furthermore, most subjects (80%) in the older untreated and the inadequately treated groups had isolated systolic hypertension and required a greater reduction in systolic blood pressure than in the younger groups (-13.3 and -16.5 mm Hg versus -6.8 and -6.1 mm Hg, respectively; P:=0.0001) to attain a systolic blood pressure treatment goal of <140 mm Hg. Contrary to previous perceptions, isolated systolic hypertension was the majority subtype of uncontrolled hypertension in subjects of ages 50 to 59 years, comprised 87% frequency for subjects in the sixth decade of life, and required greater reduction in systolic blood pressure in these subjects to reach treatment goal compared with subjects in the younger group. Better awareness of this middle-aged and older high-risk group and more aggressive antihypertensive therapy are necessary to address this treatment gap.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Blood Pressure
  • Diastole
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / drug therapy
  • Hypertension / epidemiology
  • Hypertension / physiopathology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Systole*
  • United States / epidemiology