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The Silent Killer: National High Blood Pressure Education Month


May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month and this year's theme highlights the threat of uncontrolled high blood pressure (hypertension).  The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) urges Americans: "If your blood pressure is not lower than 140/90, ask your doctor why."

Just for the record, blood pressure is the force that pushes blood through our arteries. This pressure swings up and down during the day, with thousands of fluctuations, so a single reading is only a snapshot of an individual's usual blood pressure. According to the NHLBI, high blood pressure affects about one in four American adults. What do people with hypertension look like? They look just like you and they look just like me. While 68 percent of those with high blood pressure are aware of their condition, only 27 percent actually have it under control.  It is however, a disease without symptoms...thus the nickname: The Silent Killer. Here's the scary fact: One third of people with hypertension have NO IDEA they even have it...some only find out when it's too late! What it's NOT is solely a disease of "old people." Yes, your risk factors increase with age, but certainly not limited to the elderly. I was diagnosed at the age of 37. While it did change my life, it didn't end my life.

The truth is detection is so easy and so simple. The only way to detect it is to have your blood pressure measured by a nurse, physician or another knowledgeable person (including yourself).  If you have a blood pressure over 140/90 mm Hg  (millimeters of mercury), that is either a systolic (first number) of 140 or more or diastolic (second number) of 90 or more or a combination of the two above the respective limit then hypertension exists. Because there are no symptoms of high blood pressure and because it is so prevalent in older people, you should have it measured at least once a year.

High blood pressure is often associated with an unhealthy life-style including excessive alcohol use, smoking and lack of exercise.  Other risk factors include obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes, age (over 40 years), and being male.  Unfortunately, if your family is like mine and has a history of high blood pressure, you may not escape it even though you do not have life-style or other risk factors.

High blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart failure, or kidney damage.  Doctors have found that even subtle elevations can cause the rupture of tiny vessels in the brain, linking it to dementia among other things. To help prevent that, blood pressure must be lowered to less than 140/90 mm Hg. Normal blood pressure is less than 130/85 mm Hg. Ideally blood pressure should be below 120/80 mm Hg. The good news for individuals with high blood pressure is that there are a variety of medications available to control it, most with very few side effects.  Many large-chain pharmacies offer anti-hypertensive medications for less than $5/month eliminating cost as a prohibitive factor. Lifestyle changes (i.e., losing weight, becoming physically active,  improving diet with less salt and cholesterol), can sometimes significantly lower blood pressure resulting in better blood pressure control and a reduction in the amount of medication needed.  Without a doubt, these lifestyle changes can often make a difference before high blood pressure ever occurs. 

So.......take time during the month of May to have your blood pressure checked. If you're like me, you might just a few reasons to remain as healthy as possible. Take the time to look at your risk factors and have your blood pressure taken. Knowledge is power!

For resources and more information on how to control or prevent high blood pressure go to the NHLBI home page at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/.  Also, check out NHLBI's new Achieve Your Healthy Weight web site. It can be accessed through the NHLBI home page or the high blood pressure education month site. The site offers practical information on weight loss, including heart healthy recipes, and tips on how to make behavior changes, choose a weight loss program, and shop for low calorie foods.

Reference:  http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/

May 21, 2011 @ 10:16 am

13 Replies


So true

It's true that high blood pressure doesn't only occur in "older" people. I know some really young people who has high blood pressure. My mom also has high blood pressure so I know how serious this is. Thanks a lot for posting this!
May 25, 2011 @ 02:35 pm

So important.

This is such a serious thing because it truly is "the silent killer". Last year, some of my classmates and I did a clinic in a retirement as a part of our clinical rotation. At this clinic, we encouraged the residents to come on down and "learn their numbers": blood pressure, blood sugar, pulse, etc. It was surprising how many came down and had no idea what HTN even was or how many have even been diagnosed by their doctor with HTN but weren't taking their medication because they didn't feel it was serious enough. This is something that so easily sneaks up on you, especially if you have a history of diabetes. High blood pressure can lead to countless serious health complications - heart failure, stroke, heart attack, kidney disease and even rupturing of the aorta, the largest artery in your body (I believe John Ritter died because of a tear in his aorta as a result of HTN). Know your numbers - there are no symptoms until it's too late!

And here's a crazy story. Franklin D. Roosevelt's blood pressure in the months leading up to his death was sky-rocketing. His last measured BP was 260/150. 260/150!!!!!!!!!! Normal is 120/80.

It's also VERY important for those mommies-to-be to keep track of their blood pressure as well. Preeclampsia is a serious thing to watch for so make sure your doctor is keeping track of that at each visit.

Thanks for posting this! Such an important part of our health to know.
May 25, 2011 @ 02:59 pm

What about Low blood pressure?

My mom and sister both have very low blood pressure, and I heard it's also just as serious, though less common. I wonder if similar things could happen due to having TOO low of blood pressure?
May 25, 2011 @ 03:08 pm

Hmm well...

Hypotension (low blood pressure) normally wouldn't cause something like a heart attack, etc as the physiology and effect on the body is very different. Normally someone who gets low blood pressure would experience problems when standing for a long time, rising too fast, etc (orthostatic hypertention). If low blood pressure is serious, I'd say that it's probably because of an underlying cause. It's important to watch that it doesn't get below 90mmHg systolic (the top number) for a long period of time, because that's when you run into a problem with oxygen adequately getting to the tissues. It is definitely something to see your doctor about if it remains a problem as he'll need to rule out underlying illnesses. You can read more here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0004536/

If their blood pressure is always just "low" then that just might be their normal! For example, my "normal" is actually about 110/70 because I am just not a very big person.

I'm not a real nurse yet but this is what I can gather from my knowledge so far! Either way, it's important to know what your normal blood pressure is.
May 25, 2011 @ 03:22 pm


Sorry, meant to say orthostatic hyPOtention. Hope that wasn't confusing!
May 25, 2011 @ 03:23 pm

hypo looks like hippo..haha

Oh wow, reading the symptoms, I'm starting to think I might have low blood pressure too! I'm always dehydrated, and get dizzy often...
Low blood pressure could be hereditary too, right?
This is quite fascinating!! Thanks for the info!
May 25, 2011 @ 03:36 pm

definitely not only for the elders

I started feeling sick, as in "my heart is pounding, can't breathe, I'm going to die" type of sick randomly. Usually at night, but can happen during the day too. Because it was so random, it was very hard for me to go to the doctor and tell them about it. Also, I like self-diagnosing, so I used all the equipment we have at home to see if I could find what was wrong. Thermometer to see if I have a high temp, which I sometimes did, but it wasn't consistent. Blood sugar monitor to see if my blood sugar was spiking or lowering to make me feel like this - wasn't that. Blood Pressure monitor - consistently very high (168/101, etc). I tracked my BP for a few weeks, and then went to my doctor and took my BP monitor with me. She checked my BP with their machines (it was normal), checked with my machine and came up with the same numbers. So that confirmed my machine was working. She ran a few tests and referred me to a kidney specialist (prof / doc / surgeon at St Mikes) and apparently this random spiking BP is caused by a small tumor in the adrenal glands. Huh... go figure!!

I'm sharing this with you to alert you guys that not only is HBP deadly, but random hbp can be a sign of something else, so know your body and don't ignore any symptoms.
May 25, 2011 @ 04:16 pm

@ Becky

I hope you are okay becky! That sounds really scary. Do you have to get the tumor removed or is it one of those tumors that are not dangerous?
May 25, 2011 @ 04:30 pm

Thanks for sharing!

That's a smart thing you did, noticing that there was a problem. Usually whenever I get problems like that, my mom shrugs her shoulders and tells me it's because I lack pain tolerance. I'm going to read your story to her, and lets see if that will give me at least a doctor checkup! (I haven't had a checkup in almost 4 years now!)
May 25, 2011 @ 04:42 pm


They say it's almost definitely benign but hey who wants a foreign pimple inside them causing their bp to spike? :) @Tammy, I'm perfectly OK thank you for asking! :-) And for sure getting it removed is the best bet. My story is just to show how symptoms that we often neglect can indicate something much more serious.. @jksim07, get yourself checked, I really believe that often something serious can be prevented if only we tune in and listen to our bodies. Usually when I'm sick my mom and dad are pushing me out the door and into the doctors and I'm the one saying "wait wait let me figure out what I have first!" My problem is I think I know everything, I really don't, but I don't know that yet...lol! :-)
May 25, 2011 @ 05:35 pm

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