Healthy Living: Left alone, high blood pressure can lead to deadly illness
It is the fourth leading cause of death in America, but a recent study shows many with high blood pressure are not managing it. YNN's Shazia Khan filed the following report.
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently found that 67 million Americans have high blood pressure and more than half do not have it under control.
"What this means is it increases their risk for a stroke by four-fold, increases their risk of a heart attack by three-fold and it's just an extraordinary opportunity to reduce cardiovascular risk, that regrettably both physician and patient aren't taking advantage of," says Dr. Howard Weintraub, the clinical director at the NYU Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease.
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, affects the health of the arteries. The CDC says it contributes to nearly 1,000 deaths a day in the United States.
"When the blood pressure is high, it exerts an unusual force against the arteries and it leads to disruption of the health of the artery wall, which leads to directly strokes, heart attacks and kidney disease," says Dr. Mary Ann McLaughlin of the American Heart Association.
Factors that can contribute to high blood pressure include uncontrolled weight gain, high salt intake, stress, smoking and sometimes just plain genetics, but a healthy diet and lifestyle as well as medication can help lower it.
Still, the CDC found one in four patients with uncontrolled high blood pressure is not regularly taking medication. Experts say one reason it is not properly managed is because high blood pressure is a silent killer.
"When your blood pressure is high, you may not feel anything. So imagine saying, 'I feel fine. I don't know what's wrong with this doctor of mine. He wants me to take a couple of pills a day, stop eating the foods that I enjoy and do something else, perhaps like exercise, which I don't want to do,'" says Weintraub. "What do you think is going to happen? There's going to be just a lot of patients will fall off the wagon."
Doctors say it could be a matter of life and death not to heed the advice of medical professionals.