High blood pressure or hypertension is a silent but prevalent problem. There may not be any noticeable outward signs. But if you have hypertension, it is doing damage. High blood pressure is directly linked to the deaths of nearly 14,000 American men each year — and it contributes to the deaths of untold thousands more. It can make you 12 times more likely to suffer a stroke, 6 times more likely to suffer a heart attack and 5 times more likely to die of congestive heart failure. It is also a major risk factor for kidney failure. And even though it affects 64 million Americans, they are not aware of it.
"We could save lives if people discovered they have high blood pressure and then took measures to control it," Dr. Murlow said In many instances, it is just a matter of going to the doctor and having your blood pressure checked once or twice a year, cutting back on salt and fat and breaking out into a sweat a few times a week. That is really a small price to pay, considering that it could add years to your life.
Doctors take two measures when they check blood pressure. The first is called the systolic pressure, the upper reading, which reveals the maximum amount of pressure exerted on your arteries while your heart is pumping blood. The lower reading, the diastolic pressure, reflects the minimum pressure on your arteries, when the heart is 'resting' between beats and filling with blood before the next beat. Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury, or mm Hg. A reading of 120 mm systolic and 80 mm diastolic is considered healthy. You read it simply as 120/80 mm Hg.
Everyone's blood pressure varies widely throughout the day. Generally, it will rise when we are exercising and drop when we are asleep. But when your baseline, or resting, reading creeps upto 140/90, you have borderline high blood pressure. That means your heart is working too hard to pump blood, either because your arteries have stiffened or narrowed with plaque or you have too much blood in your system due to water retention or other problems. The result of the extra stress can be heart disease or dangerous blood clots that can cause stroke or heart attack. A man's blood pressure usually rises with age. A combination of factors causes this — atherosclerosis (stiffened arteries), less physical activity, extra body weight and hormonal changes.