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Blood pressure goal met; many still suffer

May 25, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Twenty years ago, most Americans with high blood pressure either didn't know or didn't have it under control. A new report shows consistent strides have been made when it comes to awareness, treatment and control. But still many are quite shocked when they learn their numbers are a bit high."I was just anxious. I had a lot of anxiety," said Mary Miller. "I didn't feel like myself."

The 58-year-old was dealing with an hour-and-a-half commute. She was tired, stressed out and not eating right. So when she went in for a check-up she was surprised to learn her blood pressure was dangerously high -- 160 over 105.

High blood pressure begins when numbers rise to 140 over 90, or higher.

"It was 160 over 105," said Miller."I was really surprised because I was feeling perfectly fine."

Interventional cardiologist Dr. Alex Durairaj would like to see blood pressure readings at 120 over 80 or lower. This new criteria means more Americans are in the danger zone, but that's not all.

"Our diets are getting worse," said Dr. Durairaj. "People are more obese and that is a huge contributor to high blood pressure."

A new report in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds half of people with high blood pressure have it under control. That is a big improvement from 20 years ago.

Despite the fact that more Americans are aware about the health risks of hypertension, researchers say two out of ten people have high blood pressure and don't even know it.

"It used to be called a silent killer for a reason because you wouldn't even know that you had it until it was too late," said Dr. Durairaj. "So this is something you need to check frequently with your doctor at your regular check-up. Check it on your own if you have a family history."

Dr. Durairaj say people should keep their salt intake under 2,500 milligrams a day, eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and walk at least half an hour every other day. Its advice Miller has taken to heart.

"I am 120 over 80. Plus, the numbers mean something to me now," said Miller.

Researchers found young people ages 19 to 39 were less likely to have their blood pressure under control. The same was also true of many in Latino communities. Dr. Durairaj says get your blood pressure checked every year. And you might want to consistently monitor it at home if your top number is 130 or higher.


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