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What Are the Hypertension Risk Factors?

Here’s a staggering fact: according to the CDC, more than 100 million Americans have hypertension, or high blood pressure. That’s more than 40% of U.S. adults. It’s the most common cardiovascular disease.

Even more mind-blowing? Less than half of those with hypertension have their high blood pressure under control.

Given those numbers, it’s highly likely that you or someone you know has high blood pressure - or is at risk for it. And that matters because people with high blood pressure are at an increased risk for heart attack, heart failure or stroke.

High blood pressure is often called the “silent killer” because you can have hypertension for years without any symptoms. By the time you have obvious symptoms, the damage may already be done.

Fortunately, detecting hypertension is easy. We’ve all had the blood pressure cuff inflated around our arm to read the pressure. And once you’re aware, there are ways to get it under control so you can avoid problems down the road.

What is hypertension? Simply put, it’s another name for high blood pressure. Blood pressure is the force of your blood being pushed against the wall of your blood vessels. When pressure is consistently high, over time it can damage your arteries and lead to serious health complications.

What are the symptoms of hypertension?

That’s the scary part about high blood pressure – most people have no symptoms. People with severe high blood pressure may experience headaches, shortness of breath, fatigue, confusion and chest pain.

The only way to know for sure if you have hypertension is through regular medical check-ups.

Am I at risk for hypertension?

According to the American Heart Association, hereditary and physical risk factors for high blood pressure can include:

  • Family History If your parents or other close blood relatives have high blood pressure, there’s an increased chance you’ll get it too. 
  • Age The older you are, the more likely you are to develop high blood pressure. As we age, our blood vessels gradually lose some of their elastic quality, which can contribute to increased blood pressure. However, children can also have high blood pressure. 
  • Gender Until age 64, men are more likely to get high blood pressure than women. After 65, women are more likely to get high blood pressure. 
  • Race African-Americans tend to develop high blood pressure more often than people of other racial backgrounds in the United States.
  • Chronic Kidney Disease High blood pressure may occur as a result of kidney disease. And, having hypertension may cause further kidney damage.

Once you know your risk factors, you can take measures to protect yourself. Start by consulting your physician, and advising them of any family history to determine if blood pressure medication is necessary. Also, partake in a healthy lifestyle: reduce or eliminate stress factors, avoid a high fat diet and eating too much sodium, exercise consistently, stop smoking, and decrease your alcohol intake.

Living with hypertension

The good news, you can lead a full and active life even with hypertension. Many of the actions you can take to reduce your risk factors can also help manage the disease.

Lifestyle changes can go a long way toward controlling hypertension. Diet in particular plays a huge role. Many cardiac practitioners recommend the tried and tested DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan, with an emphasis on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, poultry, fish, and low-fat dairy.

Another proactive step you can take is obtaining a MedicAlert ID and membership. In an emergency, it’s important for first responders to know about your high blood pressure and any medications you are taking.

If you are in an accident or medical emergency and can’t communicate, your ID will alert emergency personnel to your condition First responders are trained to look for a medical ID and to contact MedicAlert. When they do, MedicAlert’s 24/7 response team can relay your complete emergency health profile to the people treating you. That way emergency personnel won’t waste precious time searching for the cause of a high blood pressure reading – or possibly administer a wrong medication.

For many with high blood pressure, MedicAlert provides peace of mind and the freedom to live an active life, knowing that MedicAlert is there if anything happens. It’s a small investment that pays big dividends in quality of life.

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

What is MedicAlertIt’s not just a medical ID. MedicAlert is peace of mind. Living with a chronic condition is not easy but know that in a medical emergency, MedicAlert Foundation has your back. With a MedicAlert ID and membership, your medical history and emergency information is stored, safe and secure, in your MedicAlert profile.

How does it work? Emergency response personnel are trained to look for a MedicAlert ID. Accessing the MedicAlert ID number on your bracelet, necklace or tag connects first responders to MedicAlert’s 24/7 MedicAlert Emergency Response Team. They will relay your medical history and emergency contacts, providing first responders with a detailed health record and action plan.