We might not all know the precise definition of the term hypertension, but just about everybody is well aware of the condition by it’s more familiar name – high blood pressure. And no matter how we refer to it, hypertension, hypertension can be a killer among the young and old.
Some 50 million Americans have the disease, including 60 percent of all senior citizens; about 2 million Americans are diagnosed every year with hypertension; and the malady contributes to approximately 700,000 deaths each year from stroke, kidney and heart disease.
Perhaps the most telling statistic about hypertension, however, is that one-third of those who have it don’t know it. The “silent killer” (as it is often referred) is stealthy in its manifestation.
Although it requires the heart to work harder to distribute blood throughout arteries, hypertension has no known physical manifestations, which is the inherent problem with making an official diagnosis. The only way to know if you’ve got the disease is to have your blood pressure checked.
A blood pressure reading contains two numbers, referred to as systolic and diastolic measurements. It is often written that the normal systolic (top) number should be in the range of 100-140 while the normal systolic (top) number should be in the 60-90 range. High blood pressure is considered to be anything at 140/90 or above. And despite myths that claim the diastolic number is the more important of the two, the American Osteopathic Association relates that both numbers are equally critical.
If your blood pressure falls close to or above the 140/90 mark, it is possible on hypertension through lifestyle modification, including losing weight, exercising regularly, quitting smoking and adopting a friendlier diet (low in fat and salt). Prescription medicines can also be used.
Keeping your blood pressure lowered can be a lifelong task, but you might be surprised at how easily it can be managed with frequent checks and inexpensive prescriptions (most blood pressure medications fall within the $4 generic range at retail drug stores).
But you can’t do much about hypertension if you don’t know you have it. The bottom line is this: If you think you might have hypertension, check with your personal physician. And if you don’t think you have it, get it checked out anyway.