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High Blood Pressure: The Silent Killer

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About 85 million American – one out of every three adults over 20 – have high blood pressure. Undetected or uncontrolled, high blood pressure can lead to heart disease, stroke, and threaten health and wellness. Knowing your blood pressure numbers is key to a longer, healthier life.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is known as the “silent killer” because it often has no obvious symptoms. In fact, nearly one in six people don’t even know they have it. The best way to protect yourself and your heart from hypertension is to check your blood pressure regularly. Visit your doctor, pharmacy or local clinic, or check it yourself with a home blood pressure monitor.

If your numbers look good, continue to check it and look for signs that your blood pressure may be rising. A single high reading does not mean high blood pressure. Your doctor may take several readings over time and/or have you monitor your blood pressure at home before diagnosing you with high blood pressure. If your readings continue to stay high, your doctor may want you to begin a treatment program that includes healthy lifestyle changes and, if necessary, medication.

The American Heart Association recommends healthy lifestyle choices like eating well, being physically active, cutting down on salt, limiting alcohol, and managing weight to prevent high blood pressure.

Family history of high blood pressure, age, gender, and race are also factors for hypertension. From age 45 to 64, men and women get high blood pressure at similar rates but at 65 and older, women’s risk increases. For African Americans, high blood pressure tends to develop at an earlier age and to be more severe.

Look for free tools and resources like blood pressure trackers, recipes, and a risk calculator at to help you prevent and manage hypertension. Your heart will thank you!

Sloan Garner is Regional Vice President of Communications and Marketing for the American Heart Association Mid-Atlantic Affiliate.