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High Blood Pressure, the Silent Killer… or Maybe Not-So-Silent

· Illness Prevention · Comments Off on High Blood Pressure, the Silent Killer… or Maybe Not-So-Silent

So why is high blood pressure called the silent killer?

In some ways, high blood pressure has earned its’ nickname well as a “silent killer.” After all thousands of unsuspecting people become disabled or die from its consequences every year. By the time most people get symptoms of high blood pressure, such as headaches or nosebleeds just to name a couple, the blood pressure is dangerously high.  On its way there, that pressure has been damaging our kidneys, heart, brain, and other organs. Having high blood pressure puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke. The killer may be silent, but the damage caused and the lives impacted are far from that.

How does high blood pressure affect us?

According to the CDC, about 75 million United States adults (32%) have high blood pressure and just slightly over half of those (54%) have it under control.  It takes a daily toll killing what averages out to 1,100 Americans dying each day.

So what can we do about high blood pressure?

Fortunately, there is much we can each do:

  1. Lower your sodium intake (no more than 1500 mg daily)
  2. Avoid smoking and using tobacco products.
  3. Be physically active daily
  4. Eat a heart-healthy diet
  5. Keep a healthy weight
  6. Limit alcohol consumption

A good start is looking at our sodium intake.  The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends up to 1500mg of sodium for ideal cardiovascular health. 90% of Americans consume more than 1500mg (average consumption is 3400mg) and about 90% of Americans are expected to develop high blood pressure in their lifetimes. According to the AHA less sodium in the diet can help to blunt the rise in blood pressure that occurs as we age.

Most of our dietary sodium comes not from the salt-shaker, but from processed foods.  Always try to consume lower-sodium versions of any of your foods, in particular, bread, soups, and cold cuts. Select fresh or frozen poultry that hasn’t been injected with sodium (i.e. broth).

A good source for information on sodium is at


Jose R Santana Jr MD MPH FACP