Blood pressure out of control
Despite the well-known perils of high blood pressure, more than half of the 67 million American adults with the condition don't have it under control, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says in a report out Tuesday.
"High blood pressure is public health enemy No. 2," behind tobacco, CDC Director Thomas Frieden says. "There is nothing that will save more lives than getting blood pressure under control."
High blood pressure is defined as a reading greater than or equal to 140/90.
The condition means blood flows with too much force through your arteries, stretching them past their healthy limit and causing microscopic tears, according to the American Heart Association.
Scar tissue that forms to repair those tears traps plaque and white blood cells, which can lead to blockages, clots and hardened, weakened arteries, the heart association says.
Hypertension is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, the first and fourth leading causes of death in the USA. This leads to nearly 1,000 deaths every day and a direct cost of almost $131 billion annually, Frieden says.
The latest government statistics show:
36 million people have uncontrolled high blood pressure.
About 26 million with uncontrolled blood pressure have seen a doctor at least twice the past year.
Nearly 22 million know they have high blood pressure but don't have it under control.
16 million take medicine but still don't have blood pressure controlled.
14 million are unaware that they have high blood pressure.
When your blood pressure is high, you are four times more likely to die of a stroke and three times more likely to die of heart disease, Frieden says. Even blood pressure that is slightly high can put you at risk.
When those who know they have high blood pressure don't have it under control, Frieden says, it may be that the treatment plan isn't optimal or they are not taking their medication.
They also may be having trouble paying for treatment, he says.
Still, "medicine for high blood pressure works for nearly all patients."
Gina Lundberg, a cardiologist with Emory Healthcare in Atlanta, says that to help get their blood pressure under control, patients need to manage their stress, not smoke, maintain a healthy weight, exercise routinely and eat a low-sodium diet, similar to the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. It emphasizes fruits, vegetables and fat-free or low-fat milk.
It's also critical to take medications as prescribed, she says.
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