There is some really good news about high blood pressure that you simply must hear.
“This silent killer can be prevented, and in the majority of patients who already have high blood pressure, it can be controlled,” says Dr. George Mensah, director of the Center for Translation Research and Implementation Science at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health. “Our research supports these two facts.”
Recent studies suggest that 9 out of 10 people with high blood pressure can control it; however, only about half of the people in the United States with high blood pressure do.
“We need to understand, develop, and scale up strategies to support patients and their health care providers to achieve higher control rates,” says Dr. Mensah. Many lives can be saved by controlling high blood pressure rates, according to Dr. Mensah. For example, effectively controlling high blood pressure in 10 percent more patients can save about 14,000 lives every year in the United States.
Work must also be done to prevent high blood pressure in children. Most babies and children have normal blood pressure. In fact, 90 percent of girls and 80 percent of boys in the United States have healthy blood pressure levels. “This is good news because if prevention begins in childhood, we have the greatest chance of most children growing into adulthood without developing high blood pressure,” says Dr. Mensah.
Anyone, including children and teens, can develop high blood pressure. The risk of developing high blood pressure increases with advancing age. And although high blood pressure is more common in African Americans, it can develop in anyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, or gender.
In most people, a specific cause of high blood pressure cannot be identified. Factors associated with high blood pressure include a family history of high blood pressure; a diet high in salt; not enough exercise; stress; some sleep disorders; and drinking too much alcohol. It is important to talk with your health care provider if you have any of these factors. Everyone should:
* Follow a healthy diet. Limit the amount of salt and alcohol that you consume. The NHLBI’s Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan promotes healthy eating.
* Be active. Regular physical activity can lower high blood pressure and reduce your risk for other health problems.
* Maintain a healthy weight. Staying at a healthy weight can help you control high blood pressure and reduce your risk for other health problems.
* Learn to manage and cope with stress. Learning how to manage stress, relax and cope with problems can improve your overall health.
* Check your blood pressure. The test is easy and painless and can be done at a health care provider’s office or clinic. Your health care provider can tell you how often you should be tested.
* Know your family history. Figure out if a blood relative such as a mother, father, sister, or brother has or had high blood pressure. This will help you determine if you are at a higher risk of developing it.
Many people who adopt these healthy lifestyle habits may prevent high blood pressure or delay its onset. And if you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, it is important that you work with your health care provider for lifelong blood pressure control and follow your treatment plan closely. Early and ongoing treatment may help you avoid heart attack, heart failure, stroke, kidney failure and other high blood pressure-related problems.
“It is important to continue research that will inform us on how to get high blood pressure controlled in everyone,” says Dr. Mensah. “NHLBI-supported research on high blood pressure has led to many advances in medical knowledge and health care. Much of this research depends on the willingness of volunteers to participate in clinical trials. Clinical trials test new ways to prevent, diagnose or treat various diseases and conditions such as high blood pressure.”
For more information about clinical trials related to hypertension and the ways you can get involved, visit: clinicalresearch.nih.gov.