The "Silent Killer" Can be Found by Painless Three-minute Test
NASHVILLE – If there were a painless three-minute test that could help you prevent blindness, heart attack, stroke, kidney failure or memory loss, would you have it? Most would likely say yes, but unfortunately many don’t make time for a simple assessment to learn if they have high blood pressure.
“Some believe they would know if they have high blood pressure, not realizing it can do great damage without any significant symptoms,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “While high blood pressure is officially known as hypertension, it’s also called the ‘silent killer’ because it destroys arteries and vital organs slowly and often unnoticeably. While it can affect anyone, those with a family history of high blood pressure, who smoke, are overweight, have diabetes, don’t exercise regularly or who have high cholesterol levels are at greater risk for health problems and death.”
Each of these health problems can also affect blood pressure, creating a one-two punch to the body’s circulatory system. For example, the nicotine in a regular or electronic cigarette can increase blood pressure for many minutes. Being overweight can create strain on the heart. High cholesterol levels can damage the walls of blood vessels. Any of these, combined with high blood pressure, creates a potentially deadly combination.
According to the American Heart Association, about one-third of Americans have high blood pressure. These patients were diagnosed over time by measuring the pressure when the heart beats and pumps blood (systolic reading) and the pressure when the heart is resting between beats (diastolic reading). The first number is higher and the second lower to create a ratio, such as 120/80.
If these numbers increase, the threat to good health increases. High blood pressure is usually diagnosed following multiple readings of 140/90 or higher. When this happens, healthcare providers generally recommend health and lifestyle changes. If these aren’t enough, medications may be prescribed to attempt to reduce the blood pressure levels.
“The best treatment is prevention, and that involves not using nicotine, having a healthier diet and being physically active more often. Medications may have side effects and may be costly,” said TDH Chief Medical Officer David Reagan, MD, PhD. “As we age, we are at increased risk; those with a family history of hypertension are also more vulnerable. All of us should be aware of own personal risk factors and discuss these with our health care providers. Most importantly, we should regularly have a simple, painless blood pressure test.”
For more information about high blood pressure, go to www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/AboutHighBloodPressure/About-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_002050_Article.jsp.
The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. TDH has facilities in all 95 counties and provides direct services for more than one in five Tennesseans annually as well as indirect services for everyone in the state, including emergency response to health threats, licensure of health professionals, regulation of health care facilities and inspection of food service establishments. Learn more about TDH services and programs at http://health.state.tn.us/.