Hypertension: The Spy Among Us

If hypertension were a character in a spy novel, its name would be “the silent killer.” It would live quietly among us, moving unseen as it destroys us from within. If undiscovered for long, it could even bring death.

A dangerous enemy indeed. But this foe is not fictional. Many people encounter it in their lives and fail to take action. More well-known as high blood pressure, some of its calling cards include:

  • Stroke
  • Kidney damage
  • Heart disease
  • Peripheral artery disease (clotting in the arteries circulating blood throughout the body)
  • Vision loss
  • Angina (chest pain caused when the heart doesn’t get enough oxygen-rich blood) and

High blood pressure is the so-called symptomless disease – the silent killer. It doesn’t have any telltale signs that it exists. But it’s important to know that high blood pressure left untreated can cause problems for life.

You’re not defenseless. In fact, you can keep the problems triggered by the disease at bay simply by taking action often and early.

Unmasking the Villian
Lots of people have high blood pressure without knowing it. A routine health exam will alert you to the disease if you have it.

Your physician can measure both your systolic blood pressure (the pressure on the artery walls when the heart beats) and your diastolic pressure (the pressure on the artery walls when the heart relaxes between beats). The machine measuring blood pressure uses the term mm/HG because it measures in millimeters of mercury. The American Heart Association (AHA) says the preferred pressure is less than 120 systolic and 80 diastolic (120/80) .

A blood pressure reading higher than 140/90 typically means a person may be at risk for serious problems, says the AHA. Your physician will suggest treatment if your health exam shows you have high blood pressure.

High Blood Pressure Risk Factors
There are a number of things that can raise your risk of high blood pressure, including:

Interested in knowing the problems high blood pressure may cause for you, individually?

Use the AHA’s risk calculator to estimate, based on your blood pressure and other factors, your risk for heart attack, stroke, kidney disease and more. The calculator can also estimate how lifestyle changes can lower your blood pressure and health risks. Give it a shot.

Taking Steps to Prevent and Treat High Blood Pressure
Even if you don’t have high blood pressure, there are a few steps you can take to help make sure you never will. For those who do have high blood pressure, these actions will help treat and reduce the problems it causes. Try these lifestyle changes:

  • Get active – Staying active helps reduce high blood pressure, control weight and reduce stress. Even simple exercise, such as brisk walking for 30 minutes or longer five days a week, helps.
  • Keep a healthy weight – Losing as little as five to 10 pounds may help lower your blood pressure. Check your Body Mass Index, which measure you weight in relation to your height. It can help tell you a healthy weight you might aim for.
  • Avoid tobacco smoke and limit alcohol – Each cigarette smoked temporarily raises blood pressure. Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure. Limit alcohol use to no more than two drinks per day for men and no more than one a day for women .
  • Improve your diet – Start by cutting your salt intake. Limit sugars. And aim for a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole-grain foods, beans, skinless poultry and lean meats and fish.

So get moving on improving your health before the pressure's on! Talk to your doctor for more information on blood pressure and Coronary Artery Disease.