high blood pressure (the silent killer)

Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

What is high blood pressure (HBP)?
Blood pressure is the force of blood against your artery walls as it circulates through your body. Blood pressure normally rises and falls throughout the day, but it can cause health problems if it stays high for a long time. High blood pressure can lead to heart disease and stroke - the first and third leading causes of death in the United States. It is worth noting that high blood pressure is also known as hypertension.

What are the signs and symptoms?
High blood pressure usually has no warning signs or symptoms, so many people do not realize they have it. That's why it is important to visit your doctor regularly. Be sure to talk with your doctor about having your blood pressure checked. High blood pressure is often called the silent killer because it has no warning signs or symptoms.

Are you at risk?
About one in every three U.S. adults has high blood ressure. Anyone, including children, can develop it. Several factors that are beyond your control can increase your risk for high blood pressure. These include your age, sex, and race or ethnicity. But, you can work to reduce your risk by eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, and being physically active.

How is high blood pressure diagnosed?
Your doctor measures your blood pressure by wrapping an inflatable cuff with a pressure gauge around your arm to squeeze the blood vessels. Then, he or she listens to your pulse with a stethoscope while releasing air from the cuff. The gauge measures the pressure in the blood vessels when the heart beats (systolic) and when the heart rests (diastolic).

How is it treated?
If you have high blood pressure, your doctor may prescribe medication to treat it. Lifestyle changes, such as the ones listed above, can be just as important as taking medicines. Talk with your doctor about the best ways to reduce your risk for high blood pressure.

What blood pressure levels are healthy?
To determine whether your blood pressure is normal, your doctor examines your systolic and diastolic pressures, which the gauge measures in millimeters of mercury (abbreviated as mmHg).

Blood Pressure Levels:
Normal systolic: less than 120 mmHg
diastolic: less than 80 mmHg
At risk (prehypertension) systolic: 120 139 mmHg
diastolic: 80 89 mmHg
High systolic: 140 mmHg or higher
diastolic: 90 mmHg or higher

Can high blood pressure be prevented?
You can take several steps to maintain normal blood pressure levels:
-- get your blood pressure checked regularly.
-- prevent or manage diabetes.
-- maintain a healthy weight.
-- be physically active.
-- eat a healthy diet.
-- limit alcohol use.
-- do not smoke.