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September 2015

High Blood Pressure Still a Major Killer

If you can’t recall the last time you had your blood pressure checked, you may want to schedule a visit with your healthcare provider now. A recent study confirms how deadly high blood pressure can be. It points to an uptick in deaths linked to the health problem.

Provider putting blood pressure cuff on man

Still a killer

In a recent government report, researchers calculated death rates from high blood pressure. To do so, they used data from the National Vital Statistics System. The system collects and stores information on Americans’ major life events. That includes marriages, births, and deaths.

For their study, the researchers looked at death certificates that listed high blood pressure as the main or a related cause of death. From 2000 to 2013, they spotted a telling trend. Death rates from high blood pressure rose by 23%. But those from all other causes dropped by 21%. The finding shows that high blood pressure is still a leading killer in the U.S.

Middle-aged and older adults were most likely to die from high blood pressure or a condition related to it. Namely, heart disease or stroke. Those who fared the worst were adults ages 45 to 64 and women older than age 85.

Know your numbers

Nearly 1 out of 3 adults in the U.S. has high blood pressure. Another quarter of the population has prehypertension. That’s when blood pressure levels are slightly above normal.

For most adults, your blood pressure is normal if it’s less than 120/80 millimeters of mercury—abbreviated as mmHg. You have high blood pressure if the levels are 140/90 or higher. The top number measures the pressure of your blood when your heart beats. It’s called systolic blood pressure. The lower number—or diastolic—is your pressure when your heart is at rest.

As you age, your blood pressure may naturally rise. Those older than age 65 are more likely to have high blood pressure. A combination of lifestyle habits, such as eating too much salt, and genetics play a part.


Do you need meds for your blood pressure?

You can’t tell if you have high blood pressure. It often causes no symptoms, although some people may have headaches. So it’s vital to have your blood pressure checked regularly. Uncontrolled, it can lead to many other health problems, such as stroke, heart disease, and kidney failure.

Health changes, such as cutting back on salt and losing weight, can help to lower high blood pressure. But if that’s not enough, your healthcare provider may prescribe medicine. You may need a pill if:

  • You are younger than age 60 and your blood pressure is 140/90 mmHg or higher.

  • You are older than age 60 and your blood pressure is 150/90 mmHg or higher.

  • You have kidney disease or diabetes and your blood pressure is 140/90 mmHg or higher.


Here are more vital facts about high blood pressure.


Online Medical Reviewer: Turley, Ray, BSN, MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 8/21/2015
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