Millions Of Americans Have "Out Of Control" Blood Pressure

By Amir Khan on September 5, 2012 8:16 AM EDT

Blood Pressure
Despite the well-known dangers of high blood pressure, millions of Americans still have out of control blood pressure, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Photo: Creative Commons)

Despite the well-known dangers of high blood pressure, millions of Americans still have out of control blood pressure, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"High blood pressure is public health enemy No. 2 [behind tobacco]," Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, told USA Today. "An elevated blood pressure reading is a life-threatening reading and prompt action of some sort needs to be taken."   

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High blood pressure occurs when the blood that flows through your arteries does so with excess force, stretching out the arteries and causing small, microscopic tears. Scar tissue forms when the tears heal, which can trap blood cells and cause blocked arteries.

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, has few symptoms, but if left untreated, could cause a host of medical problems. High blood pressure can lead to stroke, blindness, memory problems and heart failure. Risk factors include family history, age, race, and poor diet.

Nearly 22 million Americans don't have their blood pressure under control, according to the new report, despite the fact that it is very treatable. Medication works for nearly everyone, but many people either do not take their medication or cannot afford it, researchers said.

"Realistically, for the foreseeable future, one of the most important things we'll be able to do is improve treatment."Frieden told HealthDay. "Treatment can make a really big difference in the short- and medium-term."

With better efforts from doctors, pharmacists and patients, blood pressure could be under control country-wide quickly.

"With increased focus and collaboration among patients, health care providers and health care systems, we can help 10 million Americans' blood pressure come into control in the next five years," Frieden told USA Today.

Exercise and eating healthier are imperative to curb the trend, especially in children, Dr. Ernesto Schiffrin, spokesman for the American Heart Association, told CNN.

"Increasingly, these are children with essential hypertension- this is consequence of the epidemic of obesity and diabetes that is found increasingly in teenagers and younger children," he said. "If we are going to prevent adult hypertension, we have to start at this early age by avoiding obesity, cutting back on salt and exercising- otherwise this will increase further the prevalence of adult hypertension and the huge costs that will occur accordingly."

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