You may have hypertension and not even know it. Approximately one out of every three adults in the United States has hypertension. However, almost 20 percent of people with hypertension do not know they have it because there are usually no symptoms. This is why hypertension is often called the “silent killer.” This is especially alarming because hypertension can kill. High blood pressure was listed as a primary or contributing cause of death in nearly 350,000 deaths in the United States in 2009, the latest data currently available.
Uncontrolled hypertension causes serious problems, such as cardiovascular disease, including heart failure, heart attack, and stroke, as well as kidney disease and eye disease. So, it is important to know if you have hypertension to make sure it can be managed to prevent these health problems.
There are many myths that suggest there are symptoms of hypertension such as headache, flushing, or dizziness. While you may have some of these symptoms with hypertension, this is not usually the case. The only way to know for sure if you have hypertension is to check your blood pressure. You can have it checked by your doctor or other healthcare provider, or you can check it yourself using machines available in pharmacies and some stores. There are some blood pressure machines to use within the pharmacy, or some for purchase to use at home. Of available home blood pressure monitors, those that have an inflatable cuff that goes over the upper arm are typically more accurate than wrist or finger models.
It’s a good idea to keep a log of your blood pressure readings and bring it to your doctor’s appointments or call your doctor if your readings exceed the upper limit of normal (120/80mmHg).
Whether you have high blood pressure or not, checking blood pressure is important because it may develop as you get older. If you are a healthy adult without a diagnosis of hypertension, you should have your blood pressure checked at least once a year. If you already have a diagnosis of hypertension, checking your blood pressure as often as your doctor advises helps make sure it is being treated effectively to prevent complications in the future. Bring your blood pressure log with you along with a list of questions to ask your doctor about blood pressure.