Kathy Welsh

Kathy Welsh

What would you do with five extra summers? Would you learn how to sail? Or hike the Appalachian Trail? Take a trip to France? Golf in Ireland? Maybe you’d relax on a cruise to Alaska or the Caribbean. Maybe all of them! At age 50, total life expectancy is about five years longer for people with normal blood pressure than for people with hypertension, or high blood pressure.

In New York, 31% of all adults, and 62% of adults over 65 years of age, report being told by a health professional they have high blood pressure. High blood pressure (hypertension) accounts for approximately 41% of cardiovascular disease deaths, and was estimated to be responsible for one in six deaths in the United States in 2009. High blood pressure has been estimated to cost the U.S. an estimated $131 billion annually in health care expenditures. (NYSDOH 2011)

The American Heart Association encourages everyone to know their risk of high blood pressure, know their BP numbers, and take steps to control high blood pressure to prevent heart disease and stroke and live an extra five summers, or more. Studies have shown that at age 50, total life expectancy is 5 years longer for people with normal blood pressure. Lifestyle changes can help manage blood pressure.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a disease and can have deadly health consequences if not treated. About 80 million U.S. adults have been diagnosed with high blood pressure. It’s sometimes called “the silent killer” because HBP has no symptoms, so you may not be aware that it’s damaging your arteries, heart and other organs. The only way to know is to get it checked, which takes just a few minutes at your doctor’s office, at a blood pressure machine located at many local pharmacies, or by using a home monitoring device.

By knowing your numbers, gauging and managing your risk for high blood pressure, you can help get those extra summers. The American Heart Association’s High Blood Pressure Health Risk Calculator helps gauge your risk of having a heart attack, stroke, and developing heart failure and kidney disease. You’ll also learn how a few lifestyle changes can lower your blood pressure and your health risks, and then print your risk report to discuss with your healthcare professional. It’s available online at http://www.heart.org/beatyourrisk/en_US/hbpRiskCalc.html

Science has identified several factors that can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure (HBP) and thus your risk for heart attack, heart disease and stroke.

Risks among certain groups is higher, including African-Americans, women, who, starting at age 65, are more likely to have HBP than men. Note that high blood pressure can happen at any age, in fact, children can develop high blood pressure, too.

Risk factors for developing high blood pressure, or hypertension, include family history, advanced age, gender-related risk patterns, sedentary lifestyle, poor diet/high-sodium diet, being overweight or obese, and drinking too much alcohol.

High blood pressure is just one condition that increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. Learn about other heart disease and stroke risk factors at www.heart.org/risk.

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