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What You Don’t Know Can Kill You:
High Blood Pressure

Overall, cardiovascular diseases remain the leading cause of death in the world, and high blood pressure is one of the reasons why. In fact, high blood pressure is a primary or contributing cause of death in more than 400,000 deaths each year.

Nearly half of all Americans have high blood pressure. Left uncontrolled, this silent killer can damage your body for years before you even notice there might be a problem — and by the time you do, it might be too late.

The Costs of Uncontrolled High Blood Pressure

  • If left untreated, a blood pressure of 180/120 or higher results in an 80% chance of death within one year, with an average survival rate of 10 months.
  • Prolonged, untreated high blood pressure can also lead to heart attack, stroke, blindness and kidney disease.
  • High blood pressure can also cause blood vessels in the brain to clog more easily or even burst.

Blood Pressure Numbers to know

Blood pressure measures the force of your blood pushing against your arteries. If your blood pressure is too high or too low, it can indicate other health issues like stroke, kidney problems or heart disease. It’s measured by two sets of numbers: systolic (the top number) and diastolic (the bottom number). The most recent guidelines redefined high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, as a reading of 130 on top or 80 on the bottom. The standard used to be 140 over 90.


Top Number:
Below 120

Bottom Number:
Below 80


Top Number:

Bottom Number:

High Blood Pressure Stage 1

Top Number:

Bottom Number:

High Blood Pressure Stage 2

Top Number:
160 or higher

Bottom Number:
100 or higher

Hypertensive Emergency

Top Number:
Higher than 180

Bottom Number:
Higher than 110

Signs of High Blood Pressure

You might be surprised to know there isn’t a definitive list of symptoms or signs of high blood pressure. It’s called “the silent killer” because most of the time, there are no symptoms.


High Blood Pressure Risks

Several factors can contribute to the development of high blood pressure. Some of these factors you can control; others you can’t.

Risk Factors You Can’t Control

  • Family history
  • Age: As you age, your risk increases
  • Gender: Men are more likely to get high blood pressure until age 45. From 45-64, men and women share the same risk, and from 65 on, women have a higher risk
  • Race: African-Americans are at higher risk

Risk Factors You Can Control

  • Lack of physical activity
  • An unhealthy diet high in sodium
  • Being overweight
  • Drinking too much alcohol

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

If you’re being treated for high blood pressure or have questions about your results, consider asking your doctor these questions:

  • What should my blood pressure be?
  • What conditions could increase my blood pressure?
  • Should I follow a specific diet to help control my blood pressure?
  • Should I be taking blood pressure medication?
  • Will exercise or losing weight help me control my blood pressure?
  • Should I call your office if I experience certain symptoms?
  • Do I need to monitor my blood pressure at home?

Lifestyle Changes To Make

Making these changes to your lifestyle can help you better control blood pressure & reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke & kidney disease:

  • Eating a heart-healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, skinless poultry and fish, and reducing sodium, red meat, sugar and saturated fat.
  • Limiting alcohol to no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.
  • Enjoying regular physical activity to make it fun, not work, and you'll keep with it longer.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Taking medications properly.


If a family member has high blood pressure, I will too.

While you’re more likely to develop high blood pressure if a parent or sibling has it, you can avoid it by making healthy lifestyle choices.



I don’t add salt to my food, so my sodium intake is fine.

Up to 75% of the sodium we consume is hidden in processed foods. Anything with the words “soda,” “sodium” or “Na” means sodium compounds are present.



Kosher or sea salts are better, low-sodium alternatives to table salt.

Kosher and sea salts are the same as table salt and count toward your daily sodium consumption.



I don’t have any symptoms, so my blood pressure is fine.

Around 80 million Americans have high blood pressure and don’t know it.

*Source: American Heart Association

Getting Started

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