Dealing with a silent killer

  • Published
  • By Shari Lopatin
  • TriWest Healthcare Alliance
According to the American Stroke Association and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, one in every three adults in the U.S. is suffering from high blood pressure, a major risk factor for a stroke.

Strokes are the third leading cause of deaths in the U.S. The relationship between a stroke and high blood pressure is well documented. Professionals from the ASA state, "Managing high blood pressure is the most important thing you can do to decrease your risk for stroke."

What is blood pressure?

As the heart pumps blood through the body, it also pushes blood against arteries in the body. The force of this push is blood pressure. If this pressure rises too much -- and stays high -- it can damage the heart, blood vessels, kidneys and other parts of the body, according to professionals from the NHLBI. It can also lead to a stroke.

What causes high blood pressure?

Blood pressure tends to rise with age. However, other causes may include obesity, chronic kidney disease, thyroid disease, sleep apnea or certain asthma and cold-relief medications.

Unfortunately, high blood pressure usually has no symptoms. Occasionally, it may cause headaches, but many people have high blood pressure for years and not even know it.

The best ways to prevent high blood pressure from escalating are to:

· Maintain a healthy weight
· Exercise regularly
· Manage stress effectively
· Limit the amount of salt and alcohol consumption
· Avoid cigarette smoke
· Check your blood pressure regularly
· Know the safe blood pressure range for your age

The stroke correlation

According to the ASA, a stroke happens when a blood vessel in the brain is either blocked by a blood clot or completely bursts. This prevents oxygen from reaching the brain, causing the affected part to die.

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke because it damages arteries, and when arteries are damaged, they clog or burst more easily.

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