High blood pressure does not have obvious symptoms but can lead to major health problems.

As high blood pressure, or hypertension, is not only incredibly prevalent but can lead to serious issues, it’s important to get a handle on your blood pressure early on.

Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the inside lining of the arteries. When this pressure is too high, it causes your heart to work harder at pumping blood through your veins. Over time, the continual wear on your cardiovascular system can cause major health problems – even death.

Get an accurate read on your blood pressure

High blood pressure often has no symptoms or warning signs — which is why it’s been dubbed the “silent killer.” The only way many people know if they have the condition is to measure their blood pressure consistently. In fact, one in five people don’t even know they have the disease.

For an accurate read, your doctor will measure your blood pressure over a period of time and at different times of the day to identify when your numbers are high. You can also take your own readings with a blood pressure cuff or visit a local pharmacy that has a blood pressure machine. But be aware that one high reading doesn’t necessarily mean you have high blood pressure.

Understand the new blood pressure guidelines

Always on the cutting edge of healthcare, physicians at Keck Medicine of USC recently released new guidelines regarding blood pressure and cholesterol management, after 10 years of groundbreaking research. They recommend keeping your blood pressure less than 140/90.

This goal may change depending on your age or other medical conditions. These new recommendations were simplified by not focusing on LDL (bad) cholesterol, but on reducing your risk of heart disease or stroke.

Learn the cause of and treatment for high blood pressure

Lifestyle, age, ethnic background and family history contribute to a rise in blood pressure, but you can get it under control with a few changes in your lifestyle. Consider adopting these healthy habits to lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk for a heart attack or stroke:

  • Reduce your salt intake
  • Eat fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Control your weight
  • Increase your physical activity
  • Decrease your alcohol consumption

If changing your habits doesn’t lower your blood pressure, your doctor may prescribe medication.

The best way to thwart the “silent killer?” Know your numbers and consult with your doctor.

By Heidi Tyline King

Is your blood pressure high? Schedule an appointment with a cardiologist at Keck Medicine of USC to learn how you can reduce blood pressure and your risk for heart attack or stroke. If you are in the Los Angeles area and are looking for a cardiologist, make an appointment by calling (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or by visiting https://cvti.keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment/.