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Feature Articles: Health


Person having blood pressure checkedHigh blood pressure: You could have it and not know

Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Bates County, University of Missouri Extension


According to the National Institutes of Health, as many as one of every three American adults have high blood pressure but only half of those are being treated for it. This is because there are often no warning signs or symptoms of high blood pressure. Because there are often no warning signs, it is important to have your blood pressure checked on a regular basis because high blood pressure can be doing damage to your body before you know you have it.


High blood pressure (hypertension) is a risk factor for heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. For some people, the first sign that they have high blood pressure is a heart attack or stroke. High blood pressure can cause impaired vision, hardening of the arteries and congestive heart failure. Congestive heart failure is a condition in which the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs.


It only takes a minute or two to have your blood pressure checked. Your blood pressure reading is one number listed over the other. The top number, your systolic pressure, is measured as the heart beats. The bottom number, your diastolic pressure, is measured as the heart rests between beats. Those numbers represent the force of blood against your arteries.


Normal blood pressure for adults is less than 120/80. Someone is considered to have pre-hypertension if they have a reading of 120-139/80-89. High blood pressure is a reading of 140/90 or higher. High blood pressure will be the diagnosis if just the top number is too high, just the bottom number is too high or both numbers are high. Your physician may treat it with medications or suggest lifestyle or dietary changes.


Anyone can develop high blood pressure but aging increases your risk. A person who does not have high blood pressure at age 55 has a 90% chance of developing it during their lifetime. African Americans tend to develop high blood pressure earlier in life and more often than whites. Persons who have a family history of high blood pressure, people who are overweight and people who have pre-hypertension are at risk for developing hypertension.


Remember that you could have high blood pressure without even knowing it. Be sure to have your blood pressure checked regularly so that you can take action before it results in more serious health complications.



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Last update: Tuesday, May 13, 2014