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Surprising Facts about High Blood Pressure

You can feel perfectly fine and still have high blood pressure. The lack of noticeable symptoms is why it’s been called a “silent killer.” Nearly half of Americans have high blood pressure or hypertension and, because it goes unnoticed, one in three people don’t even know they have it!

It’s important to know, because when your blood pressure is high, it makes your heart and blood vessels work harder. Over time, the resulting friction and force damage your arteries. Meanwhile any cholesterol that forms plaque in your artery walls begins to narrow the insides of arteries, further raising your blood pressure. 

Blood Pressure Facts

That one-two punch can lead to serious conditions like arrhythmias, stroke, heart attack and more, which is why it’s important to know your numbers. Read on for more surprising facts about high blood pressure. 

  • You’re not too young for high blood pressure. Nearly 1 in 4 adults aged 20 to 44 have high blood pressure. Stroke is on the rise in younger people and high blood pressure is a leading cause, along with obesity and type 2 diabetes.  
  • Midlife high blood pressure is linked to dementia. Recent studies have found that having uncontrolled high blood pressure between ages 44 and 66 created a higher risk of dementia later in life. 
  • High blood pressure can cause sexual dysfunction, and more.

High Blood Pressure Can Lead to Other Health Problems

The American Heart Association calls high blood pressure the first domino to fall in a cascade change leading to serious health problems, including:

  • Stroke
  • Vision loss
  • Heart failure/heart attack
  • Kidney disease/failure
  • Sexual dysfunction in men and women 
  • Everyday things can raise your blood pressure.

What Causes High Blood Pressure?

You probably know salt and stress can raise your blood pressure, but there are other possible factors.

  • Sleep apnea or an erratic sleep schedule
  • Air pollution
  • Smoking
  • Salt, sugar and alcohol consumption
  • Common medications (ibuprofen, birth control, decongestants)
  • High blood pressure is lower than you might think.

Blood Pressure Benchmarks

In 2017, the American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology and several other health organizations agreed to a new, lower benchmark for what qualifies for high blood pressure. This new number is 130/80 mmHg and higher for adults. The old benchmark was 140/90 mmHg. The change is based on evidence that a blood pressure of 130/80 mg or higher can lead to serious health problems. 

The good news is simple steps can lower your blood pressure. Lifestyle changes you can make include quitting smoking, limiting alcohol, decreasing sodium, alcohol and sugar in your diet, being more physically active, getting enough sleep and reducing your stress

If you’re concerned about your blood pressure, see your provider. Together, you can create a plan to bring those numbers down. 

Resources:

https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/5_surprising_facts.htm

https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2022/surprising-causes-high-blood-pressure.html

Michelle Ellis, MD
Michelle Ellis, MD

Michelle Ellis, MD is a Family Medicine provider with CHI Health.

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