High blood pressure and heart health: What you need to know

Dubbed the silent killer, high blood pressure often occurs with no symptoms or warning signs. As a result, one in five American adults do not know they have it.

American Heart Month is in full swing and doctors at the Baylor College of Medicine say maintaining and monitoring your heart health includes understanding your blood pressure.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Americans with high blood pressure are three times more likely to die from heart disease compared to those with normal blood pressure.

Dr. Christie Ballantyne, professor of medicine and director of The Maria and Alando J. Ballantyne, M.D. Atherosclerosis Clinical Research Laboratory at Baylor, said blood pressure is a factor often overlooked when it comes to heart health.

“There are some lifestyle risk factors that increase your chance of cardiovascular disease, which can lead to heart attack and stroke,” he said. But there are “factors you might not realize are affecting your heart, such as high blood pressure or LDL cholesterol levels. That is why it is important to know your numbers and what they mean for you.”

Understanding blood pressure numbers

Have you had your blood pressure checked but are not sure what those numbers represent?

The top number, the systolic reading, is the maximum pressure of force of blood being pumped out of the heart. The bottom number, the diastolic reading, is the minimum force generated when the heart is relaxing.

A healthy blood pressure reading is generally 120/80 mmHg and high blood pressure (hypertension) is usually defined as blood pressure over 140/90 mmHg.

Here’s more information to help understand, prevent and manage high blood pressure.

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By Nicole Blanton

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