High Blood Pressure a.k.a the Silent Killer

By The Viking

Blood pressure is the term referring to the pressure of blood in the arteries and is broken down into two separate readings, systolic and diastolic.  Systolic refers to the highest pressure in the arteries, which occurs during the beginning of the cardiac cycle.  Diastolic refers to the lowest pressure in the arteries, which occurs during the resting phase of the cardiac cycle.


High blood pressure, or hypertension, is defined as a blood pressure consisting of a systolic reading equal to or greater than 140 mm Hg and a diastolic reading of equal to or greater than 90 mm Hg.  High blood pressure has been shown to directly increase the risk of coronary artery disease (CAD).  CAD can lead to heart attack and stroke, especially in the presence of additional risk factors.  Hypertension is as also known as the Silent Killer because it has no real symptoms  It’s something that nearly 1 in 3 American adults is affected by, but one third of those people have no idea the problem even exists.  Those most at risk tend to be adults over the age of 35, but other factors such as high salt intake, obesity, old age, heavy drinking and birth control pills can increase the prevalence.  African Americans also tend to be more at risk.

The chart below, courtesy of the American Heart Association, details the various levels of hypertension and at what pressures they onset.

American Heat Association recommended blood pressure levels*


Blood Pressure Category                  Systolic                                 Diastolic
(mm Hg)                      (mm Hg)

Normal                                                   less than 120         and         less than 80
Pre-hypertension                                 120 – 139                or            80 – 89


Stage 1                                                   140 – 159                or            90 – 99
Stage 2                                                   160 or higher         or            100 or higher

Courtesy, American Heart Association  www.americanheat.org

Hypertension comes in two “forms” – primary (a.k.a essential) hypertension and secondary hypertension.  Primary hypertension is the more common of the two, accounting for 90 to 95% (or approximately 75 million cases).  The causes of primary hypertension, despite years of research and countless pages of data, are not definitively known.  Secondary hypertension, accounting for the remaining 5 to 10% of cases, is caused by underlying, yet often identifiable and treatable factors such as renal failure, hyper/hypothyroidism and obesity, among others.

If you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure or simply want to change your daily habits to conform to a more “blood pressure friendly” lifestyle, here are some things you can do:

  • Reduce dietary salt/sodium intake
  • Limit saturated fat and cholesterol intake
  • Quit smoking
  • Reduce/limit alcohol consumption
  • Follow healthy dietary habits
  • Adhere to a consistent exercise program
  • Manage daily stress
  • Get regular physical check-ups

Of course, there are a number of pharmaceutical solutions to treat high blood pressure.  First and foremost, get a checkup and blood work lab from your doctor.  If anti-hypertensive medication is your best option, your doctor will inform you.

Even if you don’t have hypertension, the above factors will help you develop better living habits and may help solve many more heath factors other than high blood pressure.  Remember, if you suspect you may be at risk for hypertension, the worst thing you can do is wait and take no action at all.

Websites referenced:





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