High Blood Pressure: The Silent Attack on Life
Deana M. Newman, M.A., C.C.P.
Reprinted courtesy of The New Citizens Press www.tncp.net
Many of us have heard the sayings “Silence is Golden” and “Ignorance is Bliss”. However, these proverbs do not hold true with chronic diseases such as hypertension or high blood pressure.
Blood pressure is the force of blood pumped from your heart into the vessels known as arteries which delivers blood throughout your body. Each time your heart beats, blood is forced along the wall of the arteries and the impact is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). This process is known as systole. When the heart rests between beats, blood pressure decreases, a process known as diastole. Normal blood pressure is a systolic pressure less than 120 mmHg and a diastolic pressure less than 80 mmHg and is expressed as 120/80 mmHg.
Hypertension is defined by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institutes (NHLBI) as a blood pressure greater than 139/89 mmHg. Individuals with a pressure between 120/80 mmHg and 139/89 mmHg are considered “pre-hypertensive” and are likely to develop hypertension in the future. Today, hypertension is a disease which is listed as a primary or contributing cause of death for more than 270,000 Americans annually. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 40 percent of the entire African-American population has high blood pressure.
The most alarming news overall is that many people are unaware they have hypertension. This disease which can lead to stroke, heart attacks, heart failure and kidney disease, is often termed the “silent killer”, because the disease is usually present without symptoms.
There are two classifications of risk factors for high blood pressure: Modifiable (Controllable) and Non-modifiable (Uncontrollable)
Modifiable Risk Factors:
-Obesity and overweight
-High salt diets
-Heavy and regular alcohol intake
-Lack of exercise
In a recent study published in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers found that infants of mothers who smoked during pregnancy have a significantly higher blood pressure than those infants whom mothers were not exposed to tobacco smoke during pregnancy.
Non-modifiable Risk Factors:
-Immediate family history of hypertension
Regardless of your category of risk, prevention, awareness of hypertension, regular medical examinations and controlling the disease once diagnosed through diet changes, exercise and taking anti-hypertensive agents as prescribed are necessary keys of survival.
If you do not have a primary care physician, please contact your local county health department for available blood pressure screening times. For more information on how you can prevent high blood pressure and its effects, visit http://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/what_you_can_do.htm.
Deana M. Newman is a freelance health and wellness writer based in Lansing, Michigan. She is a Certified Cardiovascular Perfusionist who holds a Master of Arts in Health Communication from Michigan State University and is actively involved in educating minority populations on various health awareness topics.