Today, high blood pressure (hypertension) is probably the most modi?able common major risk factor for heart disease and stroke in
the United States. About one out of every three American adults has high blood pressure, and the numbers are increasing as our country ages and becomes more overweight. High blood pressure can cause damage to the heart, blood vessels, and, over time, the kidneys.
Current ?ndings suggest that high blood pressure is an even more widespread health problem than previously understood. Today, at age 55, even a person who does not yet have high blood pressure has about a 90 percent chance of developing it at some point in his or her life. Further- more, recent evidence shows that the damage to arteries that leads to heart disease, stroke, and other major problems begins at blood pressure levels that doctors once considered normal. Independent of other risk factors such as high blood cholesterol level or being overweight, the higher your blood pressure, the higher your chance of heart disease or stroke.
About one third of Americans who have high blood pressure don’t know it. Hypertension is often called the silent killer because by itself it does not cause symptoms, but over time it can cause stroke, heart attack, and kidney failure, any of which can be fatal. Most people who know they have the condition still do not have it under control; that is, their blood pressure levels are higher than is considered healthy.

These numbers make clear how important it is to get your blood pressure checked, and to start as early as possible to prevent or treat the development of high blood pressure. The very good news is that it’s easy to be tested and treated. Even better, high blood pressure is largely preventable.