Erie Vital Signs

Chronic Disease and Disease Management: Diagnosed with Hypertension

Recent Performance

This trend is mixed or inconclusive.

High blood pressure affects about 70 million people or 1 in 3 adults in the United States. But only about half (52 percent) have their high blood pressure under control. This common condition increases the risk for heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure. In Erie County, heart disease is the first leading cause of death while stroke is fourth. High blood pressure often has no warning signs or symptoms, and many people do not know they have it.

Since 1999, the percentage of adults in Erie County who have been told they have hypertension has fluctuated from a low of 28 percent in 2007 to a high of 33 percent in 2004. In Pennsylvania, high blood pressure rates have steadily climbed during this same time frame. In 2011 (the most recent year for which data are available), 31 percent of adults in Erie County were told they had high blood pressure. Erie’s hypertension rate mirrors both the state and national rates.

The highest rates of hypertension are found among adults earning less than $25,000 a year (39 percent), who have not graduated from high school (41 percent), and adults 65 years old and above (55 percent).

Note: Much of the data for the Health Indicators come from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) Survey. Each metro area decides whether or not to participate each year, so these indicators often do not have data for every year for every metro area. As a result, the graphs show markers (dots, diamonds, etc.) for the individual years rather than lines. If there are data for consecutive years, the markers will be joined with a line on the graphs.

The Basics

This indicator reports the percentage of Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS) respondents who chose “Yes” in response to the survey question: Has a doctor, nurse, or other health professional EVER told you that your blood pressure was high?

Why is this important?

High blood pressure can harden your arteries. This decreases the flow of blood and oxygen to your heart and can lead to heart disease. Decreased blood flow to the heart can also cause:

  • Chest pain (angina)
  • Heart failure when your heart can’t pump enough blood and oxygen to your other organs
  • Heart attack when the blood supply to your heart is blocked and your heart muscle dies without enough oxygen

High blood pressure can burst or block arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the brain resulting in a stroke. Like heart muscle during a heart attack, brain cells die if they do not get enough oxygen during a stroke. A stroke can kill you. It can also leave you with serious disabilities in speech, movement, and other basic activities.

Adults with high blood pressure, diabetes, or both have a higher risk of developing chronic kidney disease. About 1 of 3 adults with diabetes and 1 of 5 adults with high blood pressure have chronic kidney disease.

The Details

The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS) is a telephone based health survey of adults age 18 and above. Both landline and cell phone users are included. Initiated in 1984 by the CDC, it is now administered nationally, statewide, regionally, and locally. The survey focuses on health care access, health conditions, risk behaviors, and preventive health practices. Standardized questions allow comparison among various population groups. The 2011 Erie County Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS) was administered by the Erie County Department of Health for all of Erie County. Moore Research Services, Inc. completed the telephone survey using the standard CDC questionnaire, tabulated results, and produced this statistical report. The Erie County Department of Health provided technical assistance during this process.

The Nitty-Gritty Details


This EVS indicator has no subcategories. The raw data for Erie County do provide data for subcategories based on sex, age, education, income, and race.

Peer Areas

The BRFSS data are available for Erie, the state of Pennsylvania, and the United States. Data is also available for the following thirteen of the standard peer selected metropolitan/micropolitan statistical areas (MMSAs): Akron OH, Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton PA-NJ, Boulder CO, Cedar Rapids IA, Flint MI, Gainesville FL, Green Bay WI, Kalamazoo-Portage MI, Lansing-East Lansing MI, Laredo TX, Peoria IL, Roanoke VA, and Spartanburg SC.


Erie County completes a BRFSS every four to five years. The survey is administered every year at the state and national level.


Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey, administered by the Erie County Department of Health following guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Links to the data are given above under “All the Nitty-Gritty Details”.

Other Related Data

Additional Studies and Research

-Study shows 19 percent of young adults have high blood pressure. NIH-funded analysis indicates higher risk for young adults than previously believed, National Institute of Health, Hypertension in Young Adults

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