High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps blood. The more blood your heart pumps and the narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a serious condition that can damage your body in many ways, including heart disease, heart failure, stroke, kidney failure and other health problems.
One in three adult Americans–about 65 million people–have high blood pressure. The risk of high blood pressure increases when men reach 45, although it can occur in younger men. African-Americans tend to develop it younger and have more severe hypertension. Obesity or a family history of high blood pressure also increases risk.
Symptoms of High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is especially dangerous because you can have it for years and not know you have it. The only way to find out if you have high blood pressure is to get your blood pressure checked regularly–especially if you have a close relative who has high blood pressure.
If your blood pressure is extremely high, there may be certain symptoms to look out for, including:
- Severe headache
- Fatigue or confusion
- Vision problems
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Irregular heartbeat
- Blood in your urine
- Pounding in your chest, neck, or ears
If you have any of these symptoms, see a doctor immediately. You could be having a hypertensive crisis that could lead to a heart attack or stroke.
How to lower your blood pressure
- change your diet (lean meats, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low fat or fat free dairy products)
- lose weight
- limit your sodium (salt) intake
- take your medication as prescribed by your doctor