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Know your numbers

GEHA | September 8, 2020

Blood pressure
Do you have high blood pressure?

How do you know if you have high blood pressure? Often, you don't. The condition has no obvious symptoms, which is why it’s called the silent killer.

How serious is hypertension? Serious. It can lead to heart disease, heart attack, stroke and kidney disease. More than half of all adult Americans have high blood pressure. Of those, at least half do not have it under control.

But you’re not helpless against hypertension. Take steps now to live a heart healthy life.

Knowledge is power
First, know your numbers. Get your blood pressure checked during regularly scheduled appointments with your health care provider. If it tends to be on the higher side, you might buy a blood pressure cuff and learn to check your numbers yourself – these measurements can at least give you and your physician an idea of how your blood pressure varies over time.

If you need to find an in-network physician, GEHA can help.

Next, know the risk factors of hypertension. Some you can't control, and some you can.

Risk factors you can’t control include:

  • Age
    • Blood pressure tends to rise as you get older. Our blood vessels naturally thicken and stiffen over time. But the risk of high blood pressure is rising for children and teens, possibly due to the number of young people who are living with weight or obesity problems.
  • Family history and genetics
    • High blood pressure can run in families.
  • Race or ethnicity
    • Hypertension is more common in African American and Hispanic adults than in White or Asian adults.
  • Gender
    • Men are more likely than women to develop high blood pressure throughout middle age. But in older adults, women are more likely than men to develop the condition.
You can control the following risk factors:
  • Diet
    • A diet that's high in sodium and low in potassium puts you at risk for hypertension.
  • Exercise
    • Getting regular physical activity helps your heart and blood vessels stay strong. Being active can also help keep you from gaining weight.
  • Obesity
    • Being obese or overweight means your heart has to work harder to pump blood and oxygen through your body. Over time, this can add stress to your heart and blood vessels.
  • Alcohol
    • Drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure.
  • Smoking

"Facts about hypertension.", Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25 February, 2020.
"High blood pressure.", Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 8 May, 2020.