Why You May Not Know If You Have High Blood Pressure

September 21, 2022
Why You May Not Know If You Have High Blood Pressure

Here's why it's important to get your blood pressure checked regularly.

When you think of people who have high blood pressure, do you think of older adults? People who don't take care of their health? Or stressed out people?

While people in each of these categories may have high blood pressure, the fact is that many people with this health condition do not fit into this mold. They may also be young and seemingly healthy. In fact, they may not even know they have high blood pressure.

What happens if you have high blood pressure?

High blood pressure is referred to by the medical term hypertension. It means that the force of blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels as your heart pumps and/or rests between heartbeats is consistently higher than it should be. This can lead to serious health risks, such as heart disease, heart attack, stroke and kidney disease.

How do you know if you have high blood pressure?

You can easily have high blood pressure and not know it. High blood pressure usually has no symptoms and no warning signs. That's why it's often referred to as the "silent killer."

The only way to know for sure if your blood pressure is high is to measure it. Since high blood pressure can cause serious health problems over time, and since there are no obvious signs that you have the condition, it's important to have your blood pressure checked by a health professional on a regular basis. It is recommended that people age 40 or older get their blood pressure checked once a year. If you are age 18 to 39 and are not at an increased risk for high blood pressure, you can get your blood pressure checked every 3 to 5 years.

How is blood pressure measured?

Measuring your blood pressure is quick and painless. A health professional wraps an inflatable cuff around your arm and the cuff is inflated with air. As the air is slowly let out of the cuff, the health professional listens to your pulse with a stethoscope and watches the gauge. If an automatic blood pressure machine is used, a stethoscope is not needed. You can also buy an automatic blood pressure monitor to easily measure blood pressure at home.

What causes high blood pressure?

There are a number of factors that can contribute to high blood pressure. Some health conditions, such as obesity and diabetes, make you more prone to the condition. Unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as not exercising much, eating too much sodium, smoking, drinking too much alcohol and not managing stress, may also increase your risk. African Americans are more at risk of developing high blood pressure (and developing it at a younger age). You may also be more prone to the condition due to a genetic predisposition. Blood pressure also tends to rise as you get older.

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Date Last Reviewed: March 16, 2022

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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