Hypertension: The Silent Killer

Hypertension: The Silent Killer

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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 it went unnoticed for too long, it could even bring death.

This dangerous foe isn’t fiction. Many people face it, but fail to take action. Better known as high blood pressure, some of its nasty side effects can include:

  • Kidney damage
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease
  • Vision loss
  • Peripheral artery disease (clotting in the arteries)
  • Angina (chest pain caused by lack of oxygen-rich blood to the heart)

A so-called symptomless disease, it really is a silent killer. There aren’t many warning signs that high blood pressure exists. Which makes it especially dangerous. If not treated, it can cause problems for life.

Fortunately, you’re not helpless against its dangers. Be proactive to help fend off its serious health effects.

Mystery Solved
Many people have high blood pressure and don’t know it. A routine health exam will let you know if you do.

Your doctor will measure both your systolic blood pressure (pressure on the artery walls when the heart beats) and your diastolic pressure (pressure on the artery walls when the heart relaxes between beats). The American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines for healthy blood pressure is less than 120 systolic and 80 diastolic (120/80).

A person may be at risk for serious problems if their blood pressure reading is higher than 140/90. Your doctor will suggest treatment if your health exam shows you have high blood pressure.

Risk Factors for High Blood Pressure

There are a number of things that can raise your risk of high blood pressure, such as:

Preventing and Treating High Blood Pressure

If you don’t have high blood pressure, there are a few simple steps you can take to help make sure you never will. These same steps can also help people who have been diagnosed with high blood pressure lower theirs.

  • Stay a healthy weight. Losing as little as five to 10 pounds may help lower your blood pressure. Check your body mass index (BMI), which measures your weight in relation to your height and offers guidelines for your weight.
  • Improve your diet. Start by cutting your salt intake and limiting sugar. Aim for a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, beans, skinless poultry and lean meats and fish.
  • Avoid tobacco and limit alcohol. Smoking temporarily raises blood pressure. Drinking too much alcohol can also raise it. Limit the amount you drink. For women, that’s no more than one alcoholic drink per day. For men, it’s no more than two.
  • Be active. Even a little exercise, such as brisk walking for 30 minutes or longer five days a week helps. Staying active helps cut high blood pressure, control weight and lower stress.

Take steps now to keep your blood under control. Talk with your doctor about your risks for high blood pressure and heart disease.

Sources: Health Threat from High Blood Pressure, leaving site icon American Heart Association, 2022; Understanding Blood Pressure Readings, leaving site icon American Heart Association, 2023

Originally published 8/16/2016; Revised 2021, 2023