High blood pressure (Hypertension) is often called the silent killer.
Blood pressure is the force of the blood pushing against the artery
walls, and for the most part, elevated blood pressure exists without
symptoms. However, when blood pressure is elevated for long periods
of time there is a higher incidence of heart attacks, congestive heart
failure (CHF), strokes, kidney disease, and eye disease.
Who is at risk of developing hypertension?
Nearly one-third of all Americans have high blood pressure, but it is
particularly prevalent in:
- People with diabetes, gout, or kidney disease
- African-Americans (particularly in the southeastern United States)
- People in their early to middle adult years; men have higher blood pressure more often than women in this age group
- People in their middle to later adult years; more women have high
blood pressure after menopause than men of the same age
- Middle-aged and elderly people; more than 50% of all Americans
age 60 and older have high blood pressure
- People with a family history of high blood pressure
- Obese people
- Heavy drinkers of alcohol
- Women taking oral contraceptives
The following conditions are known to contribute to high blood
- Being overweight
- Excessive sodium intake
- A lack of exercise and physical activity
How do we measure blood pressure?
It is important to have a relationship with a physician in which blood
pressure can be measured on a regular basis and changes monitored
closely. If blood pressure starts to rise, interventions can be
undertaken to prevent serious, life-altering complications.
High blood pressure can often be controlled by:
- Taking prescribed medications exactly as ordered by your health
- Choosing foods that are low in sodium (salt)
- Choosing foods low in calories and fat
- Choosing foods high in fiber
- Maintaining a healthy weight, or losing weight if overweight
- Limiting serving sizes
- Increasing physical activity
- Reducing or omitting alcoholic beverages
However, other people must take daily medication to control
People with hypertension should routinely have their blood pressure
checked and be under the care of a physician.
What is considered high blood pressure?
High blood pressure, or hypertension, directly increases the risk of
coronary heart disease (heart attack) and stroke (lack of blood flow to
the brain). With high blood pressure, the arteries may have an
increased resistance against the flow of blood, causing the heart to
pump harder to circulate the blood. Usually, high blood pressure has
no signs or symptoms. However, you can know if your blood pressure
is high by having it checked regularly by your health care provider.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National
Institutes of Health (NIH) has determined 2 levels of high blood
pressure for adults:
- 140 - 159 mm Hg systolic pressure
- 90 - 99 mm Hg diastolic pressure
- 160 mm Hg or higher systolic pressure
- 100 mm Hg or higher diastolic pressure
Note: These numbers should be used as a guide only. A single
elevated blood pressure measurement is not necessarily an indication
of a problem.