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High Blood Pressure and You

Guest Author - A. Maria Hester, M.D.

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a very prevalent disease with potentially serious complications. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), almost 50,000 Americans died as a result of hypertension in 2002 and high blood pressure was listed as either a primary or contributing cause of death in over 260,000 deaths in the United States in the same year. The AHA further estimates that close to 65 million Americans have hypertension and one in three adults in America has the disease. Unfortunately, close to a third of individuals with this disease do not even know they have the disease. Currently, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that clinicians screen all adults over the age of 18 for high blood pressure.

Your blood pressure reading is made up of two numbers, the systolic blood pressure and the diastolic blood pressure. The systolic blood pressure reflects the pressure within your blood vessels when your heart is actively beating, whereas the diastolic blood pressure reflects the pressure when your heart is relaxing and filling up with blood to get ready for its next beat.

In the vast majority of cases (over 90%) the exact cause is not known. These cases are called essential hypertension, also known as primary hypertension. There are a few specific conditions that cause secondary hypertension, but they are uncommon and will not be addressed in this article.

What are the symptoms of high blood pressure?

Many people have no symptoms when their blood pressure is high. That is why hypertension is called the silent killer. However, even in those who have no symptoms, the elevated pressure within their blood vessels can cause catastrophic damage to the heart and kidneys long before they are even diagnosed with the condition. On the other hand, some people with high blood pressure do experience symptoms such as dizziness, headaches, chest pain, or palpitations.

What is my goal blood pressure?

Blood pressure levels recommended by the American Heart Association

Blood pressure category Systolic (mm Hg) Diastolic (mm Hg)

Normal less than 120 and less than 80
Pre-hypertension 120-139 or 80-89
Stage 1 140-159 or 90-99
Stage 2 160+ or 100+

Who gets high blood pressure?

High blood pressure can occur in anyone. Most people who have hypertension are at least 35 years old, however. Its incidence is particularly high in African Americans, obese individuals, middle-aged and elderly individuals, those who drink heavily, and in women who take oral contraceptives.

What is the significance of high blood pressure?

High blood pressure increases your risk of the following conditions:
1. heart attack
2. heart failure
3. stroke
4. kidney failure

Does lowering my blood pressure really matter?

The AHA reports that clinical trials have revealed the following benefits of lowering high blood pressure:
-The incidence of stroke can be reduced by 35-40 percent.
-The risk of heart attack can be lowered by approximately 20-25%.
-The risk of heart failure can be reduced by over 50%.

How can I lower by blood pressure?

-Eat a diet low in salt, cholesterol, and saturated fat.
-If you are overweight, lose weight.
-Live an active lifestyle. Even regular walking can help lower your blood pressure.
-Limit your alcohol consumption. Women should drink no more than one drink daily and men should limit their intake to no more than two drinks daily.
-Manage the stress in your life

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Content copyright © 2015 by A. Maria Hester, M.D.. All rights reserved.
This content was written by A. Maria Hester, M.D.. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Patricia Villani, MPA, PhD for details.


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