An estimated 50 million Americans -- one in four adults -- have high blood pressure.
Blood pressure is a measure of how hard your blood is pressing against your artery walls. High blood pressure, also called hypertension, means your blood pressure stays higher than normal almost all the time.
High blood pressure is called the "silent killer" because it usually has no symptoms and can cause serious medical problems. These problems include heart attack and stroke.
In most cases, the specific cause of high blood pressure is not known. Some medications can cause high blood pressure as a side effect. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about the possible side effects of your medications.
Anyone can get high blood pressure. You are more likely to get high blood pressure if you are overweight, have family members with high blood pressure, or suffer from anxiety, stress, or depression.
If you have not had your blood pressure checked in the past year, call your health care provider and schedule a check-up. A check-up is especially important if you have any of the risk factors mentioned above.
Take steps to keep a healthy blood pressure -- eat right, watch your weight, exercise frequently, and have your blood pressure checked regularly by your doctor.
Prescription drugs can help control high blood pressure, but they work better when combined with healthy lifestyle changes.
Medications must be taken every day to be effective. If you are prescribed a high blood pressure medication, take it as directed. Do not stop taking the drug on your own.
If you have high blood pressure, visit your doctor regularly. Consider purchasing a home blood pressure monitor to keep track of your pressure between doctor visits.
Review Date: June 3, 2003
Reviewed By: Jacqueline A. Hart, M.D., Department of Internal Medicine,
Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Harvard University and Senior Medical Editor,
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