Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. It is defined as a systolic pressure (during heartbeats) of 140 or higher, a diastolic pressure (between heartbeats) of 90 or higher, or both. In 2003, women had higher overall rates of hypertension than men (260.9 per 1,000 women compared to 243.0 per 1,000 men). Rates of hypertension were similar among both sexes under the age of 65; however, among older persons the rate of hypertension was higher among women than men.

The rates of hypertension among women differ by race and ethnicity. In 2003, non-Hispanic Black women had the highest rate of hypertension (360.0 per 1,000), followed by non-Hispanic White women (261.1 per 1,000); Asian women had the lowest (150.4 per 1,000).In 2002, the latest year for which mortality data are available, stroke—one of the major risks of hypertension—was the third leading cause of death among women resulting in 100,050 deaths among women and 62,622 among men.1 In 2003, 2.4 percent of both men and women reported ever having a stroke. Stroke was most commonly reported by non-Hispanic Black women, followed by non-Hispanic White women; Hispanic women were least likely to report ever having a stroke.

Graph: Adults with Hypertension by Age and Sex[d]

Graph: Adults Who Have Ever Had a Stroke by Race/Ethnicity[d]

1National Center for Health Statistics. Health, United States, 2004. Hyattsville, MD: 2004.