More than 30 million Americans are living with a dangerous condition that can lead to heart attack and death – and they may not even know it.

During February, designated as American Heart Month, Wellmont Health System is working to get the word out about the silent killer that is hypertension.

“Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, often has no symptoms and can go undetected for years,” said Donna Anderson, a health educator in Wellmont’s Wellcare Health Promotion department. “That’s why it’s known as the silent killer.”

A desirable blood pressure for adults is 120/80, and a reading greater than or equal to 140/90 is considered high blood pressure. The systolic, or top, number represents the pressure in the arteries when the heart contracts to pump blood, while the diastolic, or bottom, number is the pressure in the arteries when the heart relaxes.

Without treatment, hypertension can result in a hardening of the arteries as they become narrow and less elastic. The heart may also grow larger because it has to work harder to pump blood.

 “If left untreated, hypertension can damage many organs and cause a stroke, heart attack, heart failure or kidney failure,” Anderson said.

Many people are at risk for hypertension and don’t realize it, she said. Those with the highest risk are individuals who aren’t physically active, who consume too much salt and alcohol, who have a family history of diabetes or kidney disease or who are overweight.

Treatment options are for hypertension include losing weight, eating a healthy diet low in saturated fat, cholesterol and salt, limiting alcohol intake, increasing physical activity and taking medications as prescribed by a physician.

“A person should have his or her blood pressure taken at least once a year by a physician to check for hypertension,” Anderson said. “People can also use automated blood pressure machines to monitor their blood pressure.

“With hypertension, knowing really is half the battle.”


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Jim Wozniak
Office - (423) 408-7299
Fax - (423) 408-7401

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