High Blood Pressure
According to the American Heart Association, nearly one in three U.S. adults has high blood pressure, but because there are no symptoms, nearly one-third of these people don't know they have it. If left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart attack, heart failure or kidney failure. This is why high blood pressure is often called the "silent killer" - it creeps up on you. The only way to tell if you have high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure checked.
What is high blood pressure (hypertension)?
Blood pressure is the force in the arteries (the blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart to the rest of the body) when the heart beats (systolic pressure) and when the heart is at rest (diastolic pressure). It's measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). High blood pressure is defined in an adult as a blood pressure greater than or equal to 140 mm Hg systolic pressure (the “top number” of a blood pressure reading) or greater than or equal to 90 mm Hg diastolic pressure (the “bottom number” of a blood pressure reading).
How does hypertension affect my body?
You can live for years without any symptoms or ill effects of high blood pressure because your heart, brain and kidneys can handle increased pressure for a long time. But that doesn't mean it's not hurting you. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke, heart attack, heart failure and kidney failure.
High blood pressure adds to the workload of your heart and blood vessels. Your heart must pump harder, causing the blood moving through the arteries to move with greater force and pressure. If hypertension is not treated, your heart and arteries may not work as well as they should. Other body organs may also be affected.
You can be a calm, relaxed person and still have hypertension. The only way to find out if you have this disease is to have your blood pressure checked!
How is hypertension treated?
Hypertension is a life-long disease that can be controlled but not cured. If you have been prescribed medication by your doctor, take it exactly as the doctor tells you to take it. Decreasing the dosage or not taking the medication is dangerous, even if you think you feel better. It’s also important to make the right lifestyle changes by eating a diet low in salt and saturated fat, maintaining a healthy weight, getting plenty of physical activity, and staying away from tobacco products.
Revised: 08/24/10. Copyright © 2006 Clinical Research Associates of Tidewater. All rights reserved.