The Truth about America’s Silent Killer: High Blood Pressure

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High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is often called “the silent killer” because it generally causes no noticeable symptoms yet remains very deadly. One in three American adults has high blood pressure--that’s an estimated 81 million people (40% of the population in LA, MS and AL), and anyone, including children can develop it. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to heart attack, stroke, heart failure, aneurysms, weakened and narrow blood vessels in the eyes, kidney failure and trouble with memory or understanding. An even more shocking fact is that only half of people with high blood pressure today are under control.

What is blood pressure and what levels are unhealthy?

Blood pressure is actually the force of blood against your artery walls as it circulates throughout the body. It can be easily measured by a blood pressure cuff and is divided into two numbers: the systolic pressure (the higher of the two numbers) and the diastolic pressure (the lower of the two) and is measured in millimeters of mercury (abbreviated as mmHg).

Blood Pressure Levels


Systolic: less than 120 mmHg

Diastolic: less than 80 mmHg

At risk


Systolic: 120-139 mmHg

Diastolic: 80-89 mmHg


Systolic: 140 mmHg or higher

Diastolic: 90 mmHg or higher

How is High Blood Pressure Treated?

If you have high blood pressure, your healthcare provider may prescribe medications to lower it. In addition to medication, certain lifestyle changes can be very powerful, and can be just as important as taking medicines. These include reducing sodium in your diet, exercise, reducing weight if you are overweight, and following a DASH diet.

What other steps can you take to manage your high blood pressure?

There are several things you can do get you blood pressure under good control:

  1. If you are on medication, take them as directed and don’t miss doses. If you are having any side effects you are concerned about, or you can’t afford your medication, tell your healthcare provider; they can often find a less expensive brand or one that will not produce the side effects you experienced.
  2. Take your own blood pressure and record it. Today, there are automated blood pressure devices that can not only measure your blood pressure but actually send the blood pressure data into your own health record for your healthcare provider to see. At Ochsner, we can provide you with a list of these devices on our Hypertension Digital Medicine website.
  3. Finally maintain a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise and a healthy diet. For more information on lifestyle changes visit our Hypertension Digital Medicine website.

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