Doctors call it "the silent killer" for good reason; you can have it for years without knowing because there often are no alarming warning symptoms associated with hypertension. But uncontrolled high blood pressure increases your risk of serious health problems, including heart attack and stroke. The only way to find out if you are at risk is to have your blood pressure measured with blood pressure cuff and stethoscope or electronic sensor.
Blood pressure is determined by the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries. The more blood your heart pumps and the narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, about 65 million Americans adults or nearly one in three has high blood pressure. And being young doesn't guarantee a clean bill of health.
"African Americans will develop it younger in life, their blood pressure elevations are more severe, and they have many, many more of the devastating consequences of uncontrolled blood pressure," says Nanette K. Wenger, MD professor of medicine in the Division of Cardiology for Emory University School of Medicine and chief of cardiology at Grady Memorial Hospital.
There are many risk factors associated with high blood pressure that cannot be controlled like age, race and family history. But health experts emphasize several dietary and lifestyle changes that can be controlled and go a long way to lowering high blood pressure or even preventing the onset. Loose those extra pounds by getting more active at least 30 minutes of exercise each day. Watch what you eat, aim for more fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy foods and reduce sodium intake. Limit stress and alcohol and kick the tobacco habit for good.
Learn more about hypertension in a new WebMD webcast featuring Emory cardiologist Nanette K. Wenger, MD, available Monday April 2, 2007. Visit WebMD at: http://www.webmd.com/content/article/132/118422.htm.