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Take Some Pressure Off (your heart!)

High blood pressure—maybe it’s a term you’ve read or heard about occasionally or perhaps it’s something your doctor diagnosed you with at your last checkup. Either way, high blood pressure is something worth knowing a little about given that one in three Americans have it. This symptomless disease is known as the “silent killer” and attacks your heart, arteries and other organs, and many people are unaware of the damage that is occurring.

What is high blood pressure and why should you care? Blood pressure is the amount of force on your arteries, and over time high blood pressure can weaken your arteries, making them prone to ruptures. Your circulatory system is forced into overdrive to fight the scarring and tissue damage that occurs from blockages and a lack of oxygenated blood. Except in extreme cases, high blood pressure does not create outward symptoms and many people suffer damage for years before finding out they have a problem. It is critical to have your blood pressure measured by your health care provider on a regular basis, especially if you have some of the risk factors for the disease. Risk factors include a family history of the disease, advanced age, lack of physical activity, a poor diet high in sodium and alcohol consumption and being overweight. In addition, a connection has been made between stress, smoking and sleep apnea and high blood pressure.

Fortunately there are a number of steps you can take to avoid or treat high blood pressure. Watching your diet and weight and staying active are easy lifestyle changes you can make to lower your risk. A doctor may prescribe medication to help you manage your blood pressure. Start taking better care of yourself and your heart today and hopefully you can avoid this “silent killer.” For more information on high blood pressure and other heart health topics, visit the American Heart Association’s website.