High Blood Pressure: Why You Shouldn't Ignore This Silent Killer

About one in five people have high blood pressure and they don't even know it

For those of you who love murder mysteries, there just may be a silent killer wreaking havoc inside of you. Untreated hypertension, or high blood pressure, can go undetected for a long period of time, mainly because most people with elevated blood pressure do not experience any symptoms. In fact, about one in five people with high blood pressure are walking around unaware that they even have high blood pressure. Left untreated, hypertension can place you at a significantly increased risk for heart attacks, strokes, aneurysms tearing open, heart failure, kidney failure, blockages in your legs, dementia, vision problems including blindness, and sexual dysfunction (I bet that last one got some of your attention).

How to Read Your Blood Pressure Numbers

Your blood pressure is made up of two numbers. The top number, called the systolic blood pressure, is the pressure inside your arteries when your heart contracts. The bottom number, the diastolic blood pressure, is the pressure inside your arteries when your heart relaxes. Both numbers are important and should be monitored. As people age, both numbers tend to increase, mainly due to increased stiffness in large vessels. Frighteningly, many studies have demonstrated that just a 20 mm Hg (units used for blood pressure) increase in the systolic number, or a 10 mm Hg increase in the diastolic number, doubles one's risk of death from heart disease or stroke.

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