The prevalence of hypertension in rural African communities has been reported previously to be relatively low, with prevalence rates ranging between 2.5% and 10.9%. The authors obtained blood pressure recordings in 3,588 adult residents (age > 20 years) of the Liberian Agricultural Company rubber plantation, located in rural Liberia, West Africa. Blood pressures were obtained using automated digital blood pressure machines in a house-to- house survey. Individuals with a systolic blood pressure greater than 139 mm Hg or a diastolic blood pressure greater than 89 mm Hg were referred to a central site, where three subsequent blood pressure determinations were made, the mean of which was used to determine whether people were hypertensive. The overall prevalence of hypertension (blood pressure > 139/89 mm Hg) was 12.5%. Hypertension was most common in the older women (prevalence 5.7% in women age 20-24 years old, 50% in women older than 55). Using more stringent criteria for hypertension, systolic blood pressure greater than 159 mm Hg or diastolic blood pressure greater than 94 mm Hg, 20% of women between 50-54 had hypertension and 26% of the women older than 55 had hypertension. In some ethnic groups, the prevalence of hypertension was as high as 25%. Based on these results, the prevalence of hypertension in some rural African communities may be higher than reported previously, particularly in older women and among certain ethnic groups, possibly suggesting a strong hereditary component.
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