Nearly 65 million people, or 1 in 3 Americans, has high blood pressure. This makes it one of the most common diseases in the United States.
High blood pressure can put you at risk for many other health problems, including kidney disease, heart attack, and stroke. A recent study has found that if your blood pressure is even slightly higher than normal, also known as being “pre-hypertensive,” you could be at risk for a stroke.
What is pre-hypertension?
Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure. You are found to have hypertension if your reading is greater than 140 over 90. The top number is called your “systolic” blood pressure, or the force felt by your blood vessels when your heart beats. The bottom number is called your “diastolic” blood pressure, or the force felt by your blood vessels when your heart is relaxed between beats.
- Pre-hypertension is a condition in which your blood pressure is above normal, but not high enough to qualify as hypertension. Normal blood pressure is 120 over 80. Pre-hypertension occurs if your blood pressure falls somewhere between 120/80 and 140/90. Pre-hypertension is a warning sign that you are at risk for high blood pressure.
A group of stroke experts wanted to know if having pre-hypertension could increase your risk for having a stroke. To find out, they looked at 19 past studies that included almost 800,000 people. The subjects were followed for between 4 and 36 years to see how many of them had a stroke.
Researchers looked at how many people with pre-hypertension had strokes, and if those with pre-hypertension had a higher risk of stroke than people with normal blood pressure.
The study found that:
- as many as half of the people in the study had pre-hypertension.
- of all the people in the study who had a stroke, 1 in 5 of them had pre-hypertension.
- pre-hypertension increased the subjects’ risk of stroke by almost two-thirds.
What do these results mean for you?
It’s important to know that not everyone with pre-hypertension will have a stroke. Lots of different factors play into who has a stroke and who does not.
However, these results do mean that if you have pre-hypertension, you need to take it seriously. To prevent high blood pressure, you can:
- Lose weight
- Quit smoking
- Be more active each day
- Limit the amount of sodium (salt) you have each day
- See your healthcare provider on regular basis
The take home points
- Pre-hypertension is a condition in which your blood pressure is above normal, but not high enough to be called hypertension.
- Having pre-hypertension could increase your risk for having a stroke.
- Treatment for pre-hypertension includes making changes to your lifestyle that can help lower your blood pressure, such as weight loss, increased exercise, quitting smoking, and eating a heart-healthy meal plan.
- If you have any questions about your blood pressure, or what you read here, talk to your healthcare provider at your next office visit.