You might have high blood pressure and not even know it. This “silent killer” that causes no symptoms has killed more than 7 million people worldwide and it remains a leading cause of cardiovascular disease (CVD).
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Effective and inexpensive medications are available to help lower your blood pressure, and basic lifestyle changes such as weight loss and exercise also help. But efforts to increase public awareness about high blood pressure and effective treatments are still coming up short, according to a new study published in a recent issue of JAMA.
Effective solutions require proactive screening and steady monitoring of the disease on the part of the medical community and the public.
Richard Krasuski, MD, staff cardiologist and Director of the Adult Congenital Heart Disease Center at Cleveland Clinic, did not participate in the study but agrees that the dangers of hypertension still loom large. “The reality is, it’s called the silent killer for a reason, and that is because high blood pressure is very common and people don’t recognize they have it, often until something bad occurs, like a stroke, a heart attack or another complication,” Dr. Krasuski says.
Despite available solutions, problems remain
Researchers analyzed data gathered from more than 140,000 people and from 17 countries. They found that almost half of all participants who had hypertension didn’t know about it.
Among those subjects who were aware of their high blood pressure, almost 90 percent were on medication for their condition, but only a minority had those blood pressure levels under control.
Public health issues
Study results indicate that uncontrolled blood pressure remains a major threat to cardiovascular health. Part of the problem is insufficient screening and lack of understanding about the dangers of chronic high blood pressure.
Efforts to increase public awareness about hypertension have met with some success, but more work needs to be done.
Dr. Krasuski agrees with the conclusions drawn. “We have to improve awareness,” he says. “We have to have people recognize that they need their blood pressure checked. They need to have preventative care. They need to make sure that they’re eating the proper diets (low in salt and high in fruits and vegetables), exercising and learning to control their stress, things that prevent high blood pressure.”
Solution available but elusive
Hypertension remains a vexing problem; it is easily detected and it can be treated effectively and inexpensively. Yet, comprehensive control over blood pressure remains an elusive goal worldwide. Unfortunately, because blood pressure is a stealthy adversary, “out of sight, out of mind,” can play a factor.
It’s easy to ignore the fact that you have high blood pressure until a heart attack or stroke occurs. At that point, hypertension is just one of many health problems you will face. Proactively controlling high blood pressure could save your life.