Researchers found that 34 percent of adults with disabilities versus 27 percent without them had high blood pressure. In particular, it affected more people with mobility-limiting disabilities.
“Because hypertension is a treatable risk factor for heart disease, it’s important to include people with disabilities in studies and programs that are working to reduce hypertension,” said Alissa Stevens, MPH, health scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. “This is the first time we looked at blood pressure in a nationally representative sample of people with disabilities.”
Stevens said she hopes the study raises awareness of the hypertension disparity for people with disabilities and that future hypertension studies include disabilities as a demographic characteristic.
The study used data from the 2001-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, analyzing high blood pressure levels based on people’s disability status and their type of disability. NHANES is an ongoing, long-term program that assesses the health and nutritional status of adults and children using surveys and physical exams.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, was defined as an average systolic blood pressure of 140 mm Hg or higher, or average diastolic blood pressure of 90 mm HG or higher, based on three blood pressure measurements. Researchers studied cognitive, hearing, vision and mobility disabilities.
High blood pressure among people with disabilities may warrant further tracking and medical interventions, according to the study. More than 56 million people in the United States have a disability, according to the CDC.
Although the findings aren’t fully understood, obesity, smoking and physical inactivity, factors known to affect blood pressure, affect people with disabilities more than the general population, and may help explain the higher prevalence of high blood pressure among disabled people.
Because NHANES data does not include people living in institutions, there are likely even more people with disabilities who also have high blood pressure, researchers said.
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