Background: Knowledge of risk factors for development of hypertension in elderly may contribute to prevention and screening efforts. Currently, it is unclear whether veteran status can be considered as a risk factor for hypertension in elderly population. In this study, we compared the prevalence of hypertension in elderly veterans and non-veterans.
Methods: The Integrated Health Interview Series (IHIS) is a harmonized dataset for the U.S. National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). Using the IHIS 1997-2010 dataset, population-based prevalence of hypertension among elderly veterans (age ≥ 65) was compared to non-veterans. Veteran status was defined as a positive answer to the question, “Have you ever been honorably discharged from active duty in the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Crops, or Coast Guard?” Diagnosis of hypertension was based on self-report. Prevalence of hypertension was calculated for veterans and non-veterans. Sampling weights that adjust for the complex design of the NHIS were applied in all analyses presented. Statistical analyses were performed using SAS 9.0.
Results: Overall 55.0% of elderly veterans reported to have hypertension compared to 57.5% of non-veteran civilians. (Rao-Scott chi square, p<.0001). The prevalence of hypertension was higher among veterans (54.9% vs. 51.6%, p<.0001) in men, but in women the prevalence was higher among non-veterans (59.0% vs. 57.1%, p=0.4). After adjusting for age, race, marital status, poverty level, Body Mass Index (BMI), education, smoking, and alcohol drinking status, elderly veterans showed 20% increased (OR 1.2, CI 1.1-1.3) risk for hypertension. Further stratified by gender, both in men and women the risk was increased by 10% with statistical significance.
Conclusion: Overall the prevalence of hypertension was higher in non-veteran group. However, the logistic regression model revealed that history of being enrolled in military may have a lasting effect on the health of seniors.