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Carrington College Blog

High Blood Pressure – The Facts

May 15, 2014

May is recognized as National High Blood Pressure Education Month; it’s a great opportunity for health care professionals, and Carrington College students, to raise awareness, educate, and engage patients about the topic.

High blood pressure (HBP) is often called the “silent killer” because many people don’t realize they have it. It often has no warning signs or symptoms, but the patient’s heart, blood vessels, kidneys, and other body parts could be being damaged.

That’s what makes educating patients and the general population about high blood pressure, and the need to take steps to control it, so important. As a health care professional you should be comfortable discussing high blood pressure no matter what your profession.

What is ‘blood pressure’?

The force of blood against your artery walls as it circulates through the body is your blood pressure. It’s usual for blood pressure to rise and fall throughout the day; it lowers as you sleep and rises when you wake up. Blood pressure also rises when you’re excited, nervous, or active. It’s when blood pressure rises and stays high over time, that the patient is at risk for health problems.

How is blood pressure measured?

Blood pressure is measured as systolic and diastolic pressures. ‘Systolic’ refers to pressure when the heart beats while pumping blood; while ‘diastolic’ refers to pressure when the heart is at rest between beats. Blood pressures are written with the systolic number above/before the diastolic number – 120/80.

Blood Pressure Levels – Adults (aged 18 & older) who don’t have short-term serious illnesses.1
Normal Systolic: less than 120 – Diastolic: less than 80
At Risk (Prehypertension) Systolic: 120–139 – Diastolic: 80–89
High Systolic: 140 or higher Diastolic: 90 or higher

What are the risks associated with HBP? 

High blood pressure raises the risk for coronary heart disease, heart failure and stroke, leading causes of death in the United States.2  It’s also a risk factors for kidney disease and diabetes complications.

How common is HBP?

Nearly one out of three American adults has high blood pressure.Yet out of these 67 million people, only half (47%) have the condition under control.High blood pressure costs the nation $47.5 billion each year. This includes the cost of health care services, medications, and missed days of work.4

What is Prehypertension?

Prehypertension is a condition where blood pressure levels are slightly higher than normal. Patients are at risk of going on to develop chronic high blood pressure unless they take steps to prevent it. Nearly 1 in 3 American adults has pre-hypertension.5

Is HBP deadly?

Yes. In 2009, more than 348,000 deaths in the U.S. included high blood pressure as either a primary or contributing cause. That’s almost 1,000 deaths each and every day.5 High blood pressure increases your risk for dangerous health conditions such as heart attack, stroke and chronic heart failure:

  • About 7 of every 10 people having their first heart attack have high blood pressure. 5
  • About 8 of every 10 people having their first stroke have high blood pressure. 5
  • About 7 of every 10 people with chronic heart failure have high blood pressure. 5

The infographic below6, courtesy of the CDC, brings some of these statistics to life.  Although you can’t control all risk factors, you can take steps to prevent and/or control HBP.

A Snapshot - Blood Pressure in the U.S.


  1. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National High Blood Pressure Education Program.
  2. Miniño AM, Murphy SL, Xu J, et al. Deaths: Final data for 2008. National Vital Statistics Reports; vol 59 no 10. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2011.
  3. CDC. Vital signs: awareness and treatment of uncontrolled hypertension among adults—United States, 2003–2010. MMWR. 2012;61(35):703–9.
  4. Heidenreich PA, Trogdon JG, Khavjou OA, Butler J, Dracup K, Ezekowitz MD, et al.Forecasting the future of cardiovascular disease in the United States: a policy statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2011;123:933–44.
  5. Go AS, Mozaffarian D, Roger VL, Benjamin EJ, Berry JD, Borden WB, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2013 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2013;127:e6–245.
  6. The infographic was developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention in support of achieving the Million Hearts® initiative goal to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017.


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