SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - The CDC says about 45 percent of American adults have hypertension, a condition that can cause many other serious health conditions.
"Blood pressure is known as the silent killer, so it's causing damage when you don't know it in most people, so it's critical to understand that you need to check your blood pressure."
May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month. Doctor Jack Hogan works at Memorial Health. He says you should schedule a blood pressure screening about once a year if you’re at low risk for hypertension, and about twice year if you’re at high risk. Here’s how risk is determined.
“So about 30 percent of your risk comes from your family history," Hogan said. "70 percent of your risk is outside of that. Now, you don’t get to pick your parents, so that’s not a modifiable risk factor. We tend to focus on the modifiable risk factors.”
Those factors include things like diet, exercise and weight.
"You can get a one for one reduction in blood pressure for every pound of weight loss. So if you can lose just 10 pounds, you can reduce your blood pressure from a dangerous level of over 140 to an acceptable level of 130."
One way to do that is to cut down on the salt.
“Americans get about one and a half times the amount of sodium we should get in our diet. Only about 25 percent of the salt that we get comes from the shaker. 75 percent is in the food already. Highly processed foods are notorious for having sodium. So what we tell our patients is read your labels. You have to read your labels. You have to count the milligrams of sodium and you have to get that down around two grams a day.”
Dr. Hogan says unmanaged hyper tension can cause some serious health problems down the road.
“So high blood pressure has a dramatic effect on our other in-organs. Our brain, our heart and our kidneys primarily. It can cause stroke, bleeding stroke. It can cause an embolic stroke, heart attacks, heart failure, kidney injury, kidney failure. So, the damage that results from high blood pressure is substantial and leads to lots of disability.”
If you are experiencing symptoms like lightheadedness, dizziness, headache, chest pains, shortness of breath or trouble with your vision, Doctor Hogan says that can indicate an emergency situation related to hypertension. In that case, you should seek medical care right away.