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What is High Blood Pressure?

This condition is called the “silent killer” because it often has no symptoms.

doctor taking female patient's blood pressure

High blood pressure ― also called hypertension ― is a serious medical condition, and when not properly managed can cause some serious risks to your overall health. In fact, high blood pressure is ominously called “the silent killer” because one in six people don’t even realize they have it. This is because it often has no obvious symptoms.

High blood pressure usually develops over time. Having high blood pressure puts you at greater risk for:

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Heart failure
  • Kidney disease
  • Vision loss

Are you at risk?

It’s important to be aware of factors that may increase your risk of developing high blood pressure. Some of these factors include:

  • Having a family history of high blood pressure
  • Getting older
  • Being overweight
  • Eating an unhealthy diet
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Not getting regular exercise

While there is no cure for high blood pressure, if you have high blood pressure, there are steps you can take to help manage it and possibly improve it. These steps may also help prevent some people from developing high blood pressure in the first place.

Lifestyle changes that can help:

  • Eat a healthy diet (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy, fish and poultry, nuts).
  • Be physically active.
  • Keep a healthy weight.
  • If you choose to drink, do so only in moderation, which means no more than one drink a day for women and no more than two drinks a day for men.
  • Lower your sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg per day.
  • Don’t smoke.


Along with the lifestyle changes listed above, your doctor may also prescribe certain medications. Always take them as directed. Healthy lifestyle habits can actually make the medications work better.

By Laura Grathwol, Contributing Writer

American Heart Association. How is high blood pressure treated? Accessed September 26, 2017.
National Institute of Health. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. How is high blood pressure treated? Accessed September 26, 2017.
Why high blood pressure is a silent killer. Accessed September 26, 2017.
Changes you can make to manage high blood pressure. Accessed September 26, 2017.

Last Updated: October 13, 2017