User's Manual: Your Heart

Risks and Symptoms of High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is risky but almost completely preventable.
Who is at risk for high blood pressure?
About 65 million American adults—nearly one in three—have high blood pressure. In the United States, high blood pressure occurs more often in African Americans than in Caucasians.

Compared with other groups, African Americans:
  • Tend to get high blood pressure earlier in life
  • Usually have more severe high blood pressure
  • Have a higher death rate from stroke, heart disease, and kidney failure
Many people get high blood pressure as they get older. Over half of all Americans aged 60 and older have high blood pressure. This is not a part of healthy aging. There are things you can do to help keep your blood pressure normal, such as eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting enough physical activity.

Your chances of developing high blood pressure are also higher if you:
  • Are overweight
  • Are a man over the age of 45
  • Are a woman over the age of 55
  • Have a family history of high blood pressure
  • Have prehypertension (that is, blood pressure in the 120–139/80–89 mmHg range)
Other things that can raise blood pressure include:
  • Eating too much salt
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Not getting enough potassium in your diet
  • Not doing enough physical activity
  • Taking certain medicines
  • Having long-lasting stress
  • Smoking (smoking can cause a temporary rise in blood pressure)

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Lead writer: Ray Hainer
Last Updated: April 02, 2008

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