High blood pressure increases risk of stroke and heart attacks.

Share on Pinterest
The American Heart Association wants people to be more familiar with high blood pressure numbers and heart attack symptoms. Getty Images

Over 100 million U.S. people or half of all adults have hypertension, however, a recent survey suggests that not all Americans are up to speed with the basics of blood pressure.

In a recent survey conducted this year by the American Heart Association and the American Medical Association, researchers found that almost 80 percent of adults who have high blood pressure aren’t checking it often enough. And more than half of Americans don’t know what constitutes a high blood pressure number.

According to the American Heart Association, it’s important to check your blood pressure daily (at the same time each day) if you have high blood pressure.

“Hypertension causes more death and disability than any other disease process and we are lucky that it can be controlled with generic medications in routine care settings,” says Dr. Joshua A. Beckman, director of Vascular Medicine Section and codirector of the Vanderbilt Vascular Biology Center at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Of over 1,000 people surveyed, researchers found that approximately 38 percent admitted to having been diagnosed with high blood pressure.

However, 18 percent couldn’t recall if they had ever been diagnosed.

Currently, the widely-accepted definition of high blood pressure is considered 130/80 mmHg. However, 64 percent of Americans can’t identify what constitutes an elevated or hypertensive blood pressure number.

Researchers asked participants about their demographics, knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors related to blood pressure. The data was then extrapolated and weighted to be representative of the United States population.

Of the overall population surveyed — those with high blood pressure and those without — an overwhelming 55 percent of people at high-risk stated that they weren’t worried they were at risk for a heart attack.

Of those who were diagnosed with high blood pressure, 36 percent didn’t worry about having a heart attack — something that affects 735,000 Americans every year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Hypertension has been labeled as the “silent killer,” because many times, it doesn’t manifest with any symptoms until it causes a significant health problem.

People who are living with untreated high blood pressure for prolonged periods are subjected to increased risks of heart disease, stroke, vision loss, and kidney failure.

“Most of the time high blood pressure has no obvious symptoms to indicate that something is wrong,” according to Sondra DePalma, DHSc, PA-C, for the American Heart Association and University of Pennsylvania PinnacleHealth Cardiovascular Institute in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

She continued that “the very nature of high blood pressure is the reason it’s often considered unimportant.” Because blood pressure is often asymptomatic, many people don’t find themselves checking it on a regular basis or paying much attention to it.

This study went on to find that in those people who have high blood pressure, 4 out of 10 didn’t know what their last blood pressure reading was.

Because of the high-risk nature of having high blood pressure, those diagnosed with hypertension are recommended to check and document their readings on a regular basis.

“We are calling on all Americans to take control of their heart health by knowing and monitoring their blood pressure levels” said Dr. Barbara L. McAneny, President of the American Medical Association and hematologist/oncologist from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Although high blood pressure is something that’s seen beyond adolescence, Beckman believes that early awareness is the key to prevention.

“Public education about risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, and cholesterol, should be taught in high school as these problems are common in the United States and greatly affected by day-to-day lifestyle choices.”

McAnney recommends “Americans with uncontrolled high blood pressure work with their doctor to create an individualized treatment plan that includes healthy lifestyle changes that they can realistically stick to long-term — helping them maintain a lower blood pressure and reduce the risk for serious health consequences.”

With large health organizations understanding that high blood pressure education is a problem, the American Heart Association and the American Medical Association are partnering to raise awareness of the life-threatening consequences of uncontrolled high blood pressure.

This partnered campaign encourages people to get free resources at LowerYourHBP.com to start living a healthier life.