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Can You Spot Hidden High Blood Pressure?

Can You Spot Hidden High Blood Pressure?

From Ancient Greece through the 18th century, physicians believed that bloodletting expelled bad blood, or humors, out of the body, expelling disease at the same time. One unintended benefit of this treatment? Temporarily lowering high blood pressure.

While the Ancient Greeks didn’t know about the dangers of hypertension, we do. But it turns out many of us might not know we have it. A new study of 888 men and women found that 16 percent of them had “masked” high blood pressure that wasn’t identified while they were at their doctor’s office.

Having unidentified and uncontrolled high blood pressure is dangerous. Not only does it increase your risk of heart attack and stroke, research demonstrates even modest increases in blood pressure can increase risk of heart failure. Every 10mm/Hg increase in systolic blood pressure (the top number), increases your risk of death by 12 percent. High blood pressure is also linked to a higher risk of cognitive decline. The narrowing of blood vessels that contributes to high blood pressure can also mean that there’s less blood flowing to the brain.

So, get yourself a blood pressure cuff at the drug store, or get tested at your local pharmacy. If you have a top number over 120 or a bottom number over 80, it’s time to bring that blood pressure down—we shoot for 115/75! Your first steps: lifestyle changes like exercising more, avoiding the Five Food Felons, mindful meditation, and not smoking. And if that doesn’t work, talk to your doctor about medication.

Medically reviewed in October 2018.

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