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6-7-11

High Blood Pressure

The incidence of high blood pressure is increasing in the U.S. and could in turn lead to more heart disease and strokes in Americans in the coming years.

Nearly one third of adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure according to the American Heart Association.   High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is associated with many complications including stroke, heart disease, diabetes and kidney disease.  Dr. Omar Vargas, assistant professor of internal medicine at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, says usually there are no symptoms.

SOUND BITE:   “High blood pressure is usually a disease that is silent.  It could be present for many years and patients will not know about.  On some occasions it will give you some symptoms, especially if it is very high.  A patient might feel confused.  They might have a headache.  Kidneys might fail so you might see some changes in the way you urinate.”

Dr. Vargas says a normal blood pressure reading is 120 over 80, but will vary depending on an individual’s health conditions.   After receiving a diagnosis of high blood pressure from a physician, it needs to be monitored very closely.  Monitoring can be done at home with a machine that is covered by most insurance companies.  He offers some advice.

SOUND BITE:  “ . . . they should know how to take their blood pressure.  I always advise them to sit down for 10 minutes and then take their blood pressure.  That will be a more accurate measurement.  They should not do physical activity before they take their blood pressure.”

Dr. Vargas recommends that people who have high blood pressure make lifestyle changes including eating a healthy diet with fruits and vegetables, reducing salt intake and managing one’s weight.  They should see their primary care physician for evaluation and possible treatment.

This is Ruth Slottag at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.