‘Silent killer’ a result of high blood pressure

Hypertension, dubbed the “silent killer” by medical professionals, affects the lifestyles of more than 50 million Americans.

Hypertension, more commonly known as high blood pressure, has severe consequences. One in every three Americans has high blood pressure, but one-third of these people are unaware because they do not have any warning signs.

Hypertension normally does not show symptoms. “Ninety percent of the time, people with high blood pressure don’t have any symptoms,” said Dr. Shankar Shetty, the director of Student Health Services at Florida A&M University.

Black people are the highest percentage of high blood pressure patients.

Shetty said the reason blacks are at a greater risk than any other race is because there is usually a shortage of healthcare. He said the “lack of insurance…and money” is the driving force behind black people neglecting their blood pressure.

Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls. Doctors use two numbers to determine blood pressure. There is the systolic pressure, the top number, and the diastolic pressure, the bottom number. A person with a normal blood pressure has a systolic of less than 120 and a diastolic of less than 80.

A person with a systolic of 140 or higher and a diastolic of 90 or higher would be considered at risk for high blood pressure.High blood pressure can be caused by many factors, such as alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking, physical inactivity, genetics and chronic stress. Neglecting to monitor and take care of blood pressure can possibly lead to a stroke, heart attack, aneurysm, kidney disease or blindness.

Protecting oneself from high blood pressure does not require a major change in lifestyle.

Kristen Snell, a senior nursing student from Jackson, Miss., said she understands the importance of taking preventive measures against high blood pressure.

Her father has been treated for high blood pressure for nearly 10 years. “Just looking at him and how he has to always watch what he eats and knowing what I have learned in class, I know how important it is to keep on top of these things,” Snell said. Snell said that working out at least three times a week and eating grilled foods with little salt are ways she keeps her blood pressure normal. Because high blood pressure has been linked to genetics, Snell is forming healthy habits to protect herself in the long run.

By catching high blood pressure in its early stages, doctors can help those affected take preventive measures.Seeking early treatment can help reduce blood pressure and lead to a healthier life.

Omar Hepburn, a senior economics student from Miami, has high blood pressure but doesn’t consider it life threatening. “I’m only 22 years old, so I figure I’ll worry about it when I’m in my 40s.”

To protect students from this “silent killer” Shetty recommends students exercise a few times a week.

“Exercise increases blood pressure but in a good way,” he said. A healthy diet, reduced caffeine, alcohol and salt intake and reduced stress are also ways to protect against high blood pressure, he said.

Shetty also recommends young students check their blood pressure at least once a month.

For more information about the “silent killer,” visit Student Health Services or call (850) 599-3777.