High blood pressure – or hypertension – affects one in three American adults—or 65 million people. It is a serious chronic condition that can lead to coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke and kidney disease.
Hypertension is when the pressure of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps blood is higher than normal. There are no symptoms for the disease but left untreated, it can wreck havoc on the heart, kidney, blood vessels and other parts of the body.
Nearly 50 percent of senior citizens have high blood pressure, while 90 percent of those ages 60 and older are at risk of developing high blood pressure.
Risk of developing the disease increases with age, generally starting at 45. African Americans are at an increased risk of developing high blood pressure – in many cases developing the disease at an earlier age than other racial or ethnic groups.
High blood pressure puts people at risk for aneurysms, an enlarged heart, kidney failure and vision problems, since high blood pressure can affect blood vessels.
Diet is among the leading causes of high blood pressure. A high-sodium and low-potassium diet—punctuated by heavy alcohol consumption—can increase one’s chance of getting high blood pressure.
A blood pressure test—with an inflated cuff and sensors—can diagnose the condition. The test measures blood pressure using systolic and diastolic pressure. Normal pressure is generally below 120 (systolic)/80 (diastolic). High blood pressure or hypertension would be defined as anything 140/90 or higher.
However, diabetics have a lower threshold. In their case, hypertension is defined as 130/80 or above.
High blood pressure can be regulated with medication, though for some just losing excess weight can bring down blood pressure.