High blood pressure is a blood pressure reading of 140/90 mmHg or higher. Both numbers are important.
Nearly one in three American adults has High Blood Pressure. Once high blood pressure develops, it usually lasts a lifetime. The good news is that it can be treated and controlled.
High blood pressure is called “the silent killer” because it usually has no symptoms. Some people may not find out they have it until they have trouble with their heart, brain, or kidneys. When High Blood Pressure is not found and treated, it can cause:
- The heart to get larger, which may lead to heart failure.
- Small bulges (Aneurysms) to form in blood vessels. Common locations are the main artery from the heart (aorta), arteries in the brain, legs, and intestines, and the artery leading to the spleen.
- Blood vessels in the kidney to narrow, which may cause kidney failure.
- Arteries throughout the body to “harden” faster, especially those in the heart, brain, kidneys, and legs. This can cause a Heart Attack, Stroke, kidney failure, or amputation of part of the leg.
- Blood vessels in the eyes to burst or bleed, which may cause vision changes and can result in blindness.
What Is Heart Failure?
Heart failure is a condition where the heart cannot pump enough blood throughout the body. Heart failure does not mean that your heart has stopped or is about to stop working. It means that your heart is not able to pump blood the way that it should. The heart cannot fill with enough blood or pump with enough force or both.
Heart failure develops over time as the pumping action of the heart grows weaker. It can affect the left side, the right side, or both sides of the heart. Most cases involve the left side where the heart cannot pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body. With right-sided failure, the heart cannot effectively pump blood to the lungs where the blood picks up oxygen.
The weakening of the pumping ability of the heart causes:
- Blood and fluid to “back up” into the lungs
- The buildup of fluid in the feet, ankles, and legs
- Tiredness and shortness of breath
Heart failure is a serious condition. About 5 million people in the U. S. have heart failure and the number is growing. Each year, another 550,000 people are diagnosed for the first time. It contributes to or causes about 300,000 deaths each year.
Revision date: June 21, 2011
Last revised: by Janet A. Staessen, MD, PhD