High Blood Pressure - The "Silent Killer"

Aug 9, 2017

According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the major risk factors for heart disease – the number-one killer in Missouri.

Many of the one in three adults who have high blood pressure, do not know even know they have it. This is how it earned the nickname, the “silent killer”: there are usually has no symptoms until serious problems develop.

The American Heart Association defines high blood pressure as the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels being consistently too high. When the heart beats, it creates pressure that pushes blood through  arteries, veins and capillaries. This is the  result of two forces: systolic pressure, which occurs as blood pumps out of the heart and into the arteries that are part of the circulatory system and diastolic pressure, which is created as the heart rests between heart beats. A normal reading is 120/80.

While many people associate smoking and lack of activity with high blood pressure---and those are risk factors---many adults develop high blood pressure with no identifiable cause. For example, I discovered when I was checking in to donate blood one day, that despite being a runner and a non-smoker, my blood pressure was above normal. While there is “white coat hypertension”---where your blood pressure readings are higher at the doctor’s office than they are in other settings---even temporary increases in your blood pressure can lead to long term problems.

There are many places to check your blood pressure for free. Making healthy changes can lower blood pressure, but medication may be needed. If your readings are high, talk with your doctor.