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HIGH BP- A SILENT KILLER- KNOW YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE & RISK FACTORS

High blood pressure (BP) or hypertension- sometimes called "the silent killer," is a major health problem that is very common in older adults. Hypertension often doesn't cause signs of illness that one can see or feel easily. With advancing age, body’s network of blood vessels- vascular system changes i.e., arteries get stiffer, causing blood pressure to go up. However, this can also happen to the people who have heart-healthy habits and feel just fine. Unfortunately, although high blood pressure affects nearly half of all adults, many may not even be aware they have it.


Risk factors related to high blood pressure include:

Age: High BP is a major health problem that is very common in older adults. As we get older, we are more likely to get high BP. With increasing age blood vessels gradually lose their elasticity, which can cause increased BP.

Gender: Premenopausal women typically have lower BP than same aged men. Studies showed higher BP in men than in women at similar ages. After menopause, however, BP may increase in women to levels even higher than in men.

Family history: Any of the parents or close blood relatives having hypertension, increasing the chance of getting it.

Race: Certain racial and ethnic groups, such as Black, Hispanic and Asian adults, particularly men have higher rates of high BP. It is believed that African Americans develop hypertension earlier in life and have higher average BP. Historical and systemic factors, cultural practices, dietary habits can contribute to BP differences.

Chronic kidney disease: High BP may be caused by kidney disease. Diseased kidneys are less able to help regulate BP, as a result BP increases. Hypertension can also cause kidney damage. 

New guidelines (2017) from the American Heart Association, American College of Cardiology, and other health organizations lowered the numbers for the diagnosis of hypertension (high BP) to 130/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and higher for all adults. The previous guidelines set the threshold at 140/90 mm Hg for people younger than age 65- and 150/80-mm Hg for those ages 65 and older. The goal with the new guidelines is to help people address high blood pressure — and the problems that may accompany it like heart attack and stroke — much earlier.

Measuring Blood pressure using two numbers:

1. Systolic blood pressure - the first number, called systolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in body arteries while heart beats.

2. Diastolic blood pressure-the second number, called diastolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in body arteries when heart rests between beats.

Blood pressure levels are classified based upon these two numbers.


Normal blood pressure- for most adults is defined as a systolic pressure of less than 120 and a diastolic pressure of less than 80.

Low blood pressure or hypotension- is systolic blood pressure lower than 90 or diastolic blood pressure lower than 60. When one has low blood pressure, one may feel lightheaded, weak, dizzy, or even faint. It can also be caused by blood loss, not getting enough fluids, some medical conditions, or medications.

High blood pressure- is defined as systolic pressure of 130 or higher, or a diastolic pressure of 80 or higher.

Elevated blood pressure- is defined as a systolic pressure between 120 and 129 with a diastolic pressure of less than 80.

Isolated systolic hypertension- For older adults, often the systolic BP is 130 or higher, but the diastolic BP is less than 80. This problem is called isolated systolic hypertension and is due to age-related stiffening of the major arteries.


Vital Facts About High Blood Pressure

1. High blood pressure usually doesn’t have any symptoms

2. Young people can have high blood pressure, too

3. High blood pressure may be linked to dementia.

4. Many people who have high blood pressure don’t know it

5. Women and African Americans face unique risks related to high blood pressure.


Keep your blood pressure in check

Hypertension is the number one risk factor for stroke and a major risk factor for heart disease. High BP is when the BP in body arteries rises and the heart has to work harder than normal to pump blood through the blood vessels. It is important that everyone has their blood pressure checked regularly by the healthcare provider. If high BP is not controlled with lifestyle changes and medication, it can lead to serious health problems, including cardiovascular disease, such as heart disease and stroke, vascular dementia, eye problems, and kidney disease.


The good news is that BP can be controlled in most people. Adjusting lifestyle habits, such as getting more exercise, losing weight if needed, and following a heart-healthy diet like the DASH or Mediterranean diet can help controlling BP.


The Health Assessment program/Training certificate program at Springfield College provides students with knowledge, information and skills in area of patient health assessment. The program is designed to assist health professionals to refine their assessment skills in order to acquire data to complete health history and physical examination of various adult patients. The content will focus upon patient health history, culture and diversity, interviewing, mental status, communication and nurse-patient relationships, safety, cultural beliefs and values. Physical and psychosocial assessment of body systems like respiratory, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal, nervous and genitourinary will be examined across the lifespan.


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Brampton, ON, L6W 3T7

Tel: 905-216-1600; 416-456-6689

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