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Few assumptions are more dangerous than this: If you have high blood pressure, you know it.
Doctors refer to high blood pressure, or hypertension, as a silent killer because it rarely produces warning signs.
"When symptoms do occur, such as headache, nosebleeds or blurry vision, high blood pressure may have already reached severe and possibly life-threatening levels," says Daniel Pohlman, MD, a primary care doctor at Rush University Medical Center.
Why is it essential to know whether you have high blood pressure? According to the Centers for Disease Control, hypertension increases your risk for serious or life-threatening health conditions:
Here, Pohlman and Shaila Pai-Verma, MD, an internist at Rush, clear up three other potentially dangerous misconceptions about hypertension:
Not so, Pohlman says. Anyone can develop hypertension, regardless of personality or personal pressures.
Wrong again. Although risk increases with age, even children can develop this condition. The only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to get it checked regularly.
Starting at age 3, children should have their blood pressure measured at all routine office visits, Pohlman says. Adults should have it checked at least every two years, or more often if they have heightened risk.
Obesity, a sedentary lifestyle and a family history of high blood pressure all increase your risk.
Even difficult-to-control hypertension can often be lowered with the right combination of treatments. The key is knowing that you have it.
In times of stress, blood pressure goes up. Sometimes, this stress reaction can be likened to a case of stage fright, such as when blood pressure readings taken during a doctor's appointment are high and readings taken elsewhere are normal.
A study describes how this phenomenon, known as white-coat hypertension and previously thought to be harmless, is related to a significantly greater risk of developing sustained high blood pressure within 10 years, says Pai Verma.
If you have white-coat hypertension, it's important to watch your blood pressure closely because serious health problems, including heart attack and stroke, are more likely with sustained high blood pressure. Here are three steps to help you keep track of your blood pressure.
But there is good news: "Even difficult-to-control hypertension can often be lowered with the right combination of treatments." Pohlman says. "The key is knowing that you have it."
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