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Signs High Blood Pressure is Wrecking Your Body

Everything you need to know about hypertension.
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of Americans suffer from hypertension, aka high blood pressure. Unfortunately, the condition is the primary or contributing cause of around 500,000 deaths per year.  What exactly defines high blood pressure, how do you know if you have it, and what is the number one cause? Here is everything you need to know about the potentially fatal condition. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You Had COVID And May Not Have Even Known It.

1

What Is High Blood Pressure

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"Blood pressure is a measure of the pressure that your arteries see while the heart is contracting (top number) and relaxing (bottom number)," Joyce Oen-Hsiao, MD, Director of clinical cardiology at Yale Medicine and assistant clinical professor of medicine, Yale School of Medicine, explains to Eat This, Not That! Health. "High blood pressure is when the reading is >120/80."

2

What Happens If You Have It?

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The arteries your blood is putting pressure against are responsible for carrying blood from your heart to other parts of your body. It is completely normal for blood pressure to rise and fall throughout the day. However, when elevated for long periods of time it can damage your heart and cause several health complications—including heart attack, stroke, heart failure or renal failure—per the CDC.

3

How Do I Know I Have It?

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Dr. Oen-Hsiao explains that some people have symptoms such as headache, shortness of breath, or dizziness. However, the majority don't notice them. "Most patients find out they have high blood pressure during a routine check-up with a doctor," she reveals. 

4

Here Are the Top Contributing Factors

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Genetics, smoking, obesity, high salt diet, and a sedentary lifestyle are the primary causes of high blood pressure. 

5

What Is the Number One Cause? 

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Unfortunately, the number one cause of high blood pressure is outside of your control. "The most common cause of high blood pressure is genetic predisposition," Dr. Oen-Hsiao explains. "High blood pressure runs in families, so if your parents have high blood pressure, you are more likely to also have high blood pressure."

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6

How to Prevent It

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If you have high blood pressure, it is important that you see a doctor to be able to discuss lifestyle changes or medications. "Leaving high blood pressure uncontrolled can lead to serious medical conditions, such as heart attack, stroke, heart failure or renal failure," Dr. Oen-Hsiao says. 

"The best way to prevent high blood pressure is to watch your diet: be sure to limit how much salt you eat and also make sure you don't overeat. Another important way to prevent high blood pressure is to exercise. You should try to do moderate cardiovascular exercise (walking, biking, running) for at least 30 minutes 5 days a week, which will help to keep your blood pressure down."

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7

What to Do If You Notice Symptoms

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If you notice symptoms (headache, dizziness, shortness of breath), make sure to call a doctor and have them check your blood pressure reading as soon as possible, Dr. Oen-Hsiao urges. And to get through life at your healthiest, don't miss: This Supplement Can Raise Your Cancer Risk, Experts Say.