High blood pressure is one of the leading causes of heart attacks and strokes, yet one in five of the about 80 million Americans with high blood pressure don't know they have it. That's partly because the condition usually doesn’t cause any obvious symptoms, and because some people don’t get medical checkups as often as they should. Doctors, too, don't always check blood pressure. Be sure to get yours checked at every doctor appointment.
If you have high blood pressure, stick with your treatment. Studies show that about half of people treated for high blood pressure don't get it under control. That's unfortunate—and unnecessary. In some cases, a committment to making lifestyle changes—such as eating a healthful diet, losing weight, reducing salt intake, and getting regular exercise—can lower blood pressure enough so that medication may not be needed. When they don't, low-cost medicines can help.
In most cases, the cause of high blood pressure is unknown. Anyone can develop it, even if they are thin, healthy, and exercise regularly. But several factors are known to increase the risk, including:
Hypertension is the medical term used to describe having high blood pressure. The term can be easily misinterpreted—some may believe high blood pressure is related to “tension” or stress, but that is not usually true. High blood pressure is often linked to weight gain, poor diet, and sedentary lifestyle. Family history, getting older and gaining weight also play a role. A high salt diet may contribute as well.
For the same reasons, and perhaps due to genetic factors as well, black Americans are more likely to have high blood pressure and to develop it at a younger age. And studies indicate they are more sensitive than Caucasian people to the blood pressure-raising effects of salt in their diet.