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High blood pressure The silent killer High blood pressure (hypertension) is sneaky. You can have it and not know it. That’s why it’s called the “silent killer”. Over time, high blood pressure can lead to a stroke, heart attack or kidney failure. But, this doesn’t have to happen to you. Regular blood pressure checks and healthy lifestyle choices are the tools to help you prevent or control high blood pressure. Read on to learn how you can take charge of your health and at least control, or better yet avoid the “silent killer”.

Normal blood pressure

Stages of blood pressure

Effects on blood pressure

Blood pressure (BP) is the force that moving blood puts on your artery walls. As your heart pumps blood out to your body, blood pressure on the arteries is at its highest. The peak pressure is the systolic (sis-toll-ic) pressure.

Blood pressure levels are ranked in stages.* Each stage gives a range of blood pressure readings and tells how it ranks. The stages for adults 18 years and older are:

Your blood pressure is a moving target. It can go up or down depending upon what you are doing, for example:


Systolic pressure Diastolic pressure

Blood pressure is recorded with a set of 2 numbers such as 120/80 (read as 120 over 80). The top number (120) is the systolic pressure. And, the bottom number (80) is the diastolic pressure.


(top number)

(bottom number)

less than And less than 120 80

Pre120 – 139 Or hypertension

80 – 89

Stage 1 140 – 159 Or hypertension

90 – 99

Stage 2 hypertension

Between heartbeats, the arteries are more relaxed. This lets blood flow back into your heart. The more relaxed pressure is the diastolic (dye-a-stol-ic) pressure.


160 or higher


• When you sleep, your blood pressure is often much lower. As you wake up and start moving around, it goes up. • Talking, walking or eating can make your blood pressure go up. • Sudden pain or stress can cause your blood pressure to rise in a few seconds.

100 or more

*Based on guidelines from the JNC7 reports. (Very low blood pressure readings should be checked by your doctor.)

Your blood pressure How do you measure up? / My blood pressure is now __________ / My blood pressure goal is __________

• Hard exercise or getting excited can also raise your blood pressure. • Smoking and drinking caffeine, within 30 minutes of taking your blood pressure, can also affect your readings. So, when you take your blood pressure, do so after you have rested quietly for at least 5 minutes. This lets your blood pressure get back to what it really is.

Kinds of high blood pressure Most people with chronic high blood pressure have what is called essential hypertension, which tends to run in families. But, most of the time the cause is not known. Sometimes high blood pressure is caused by a medical problem, such as kidney disease. This type is called secondary hypertension. Your blood pressure may go down, by treating the medical problem causing it. Some drugs or other compounds can raise blood pressure at times, too. Some examples are: • • • •

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Those at risk

Steps toward control

There seems to be a pattern as to who gets high blood pressure: • When both parents have it, children are 6 times more likely to have it. If only 1 parent has it, they are 4 times more likely to have it. • African Americans are about twice as likely to have it as other ethnic groups. • Overweight people often have high blood pressure. • Men under the age of 45 are more likely to have high blood pressure than women under 45. After age 45, the odds are about the same for both men and women. • Those with poor health habits are more likely to have it. Poor habits include: ―― overeating ―― eating too much salt ―― having too much fat and cholesterol in your diet ―― drinking too much alcohol ―― not being active ―― using tobacco products

To control your blood pressure, make good choices about: • what you eat and drink • keeping a healthy body weight • exercising regularly • managing the stress in your life • not using tobacco products • taking a high blood pressure drug, if you are advised to do so Doing this will increase your chances for a full, healthy life. Check your blood pressure often. Know when you need to take steps to control it.


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How can you make sure your patients understand what high blood pressure is and what it means? High Blood Pressure: The Silent Killer is just...

High Blood Pressure brochure (634)  

How can you make sure your patients understand what high blood pressure is and what it means? High Blood Pressure: The Silent Killer is just...

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