High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

Hypertension is defined as “abnormally high blood pressure,” and therefore often referred to as high blood pressure.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 75 million American adults have high blood pressure, which breaks down to one in three adults. High blood pressure increases the risk for heart attack and stroke, which are among the leading causes of death in America. Simple lifestyle changes, medications and regular monitoring can help control your blood pressure and reduce these risks.


High blood pressure may develop over many years and has no signs or symptoms. Some may experience headaches, shortness of breath or nosebleeds, but these typically don’t occur until immediate medical treatment is needed.

Complications from High Blood Pressure

Hypertension diagramDamage to your blood vessels and organs in your body can occur from long-term, excessive pressure against your artery walls. The higher your blood pressure and the longer it goes uncontrolled, the greater the damage, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to:

  • Heart attack or stroke
  • Aneurysm
  • Heart failure
  • Kidney disease -weakened and narrowed blood vessels in your kidneys can prevent them from functioning normally
  • Vision loss - thickened, narrowed or torn blood vessels in the eyes
  • Metabolic syndrome - includes a cluster of disorders of your body's metabolism that make you more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke -includes increased waist circumference; high cholesterol; high blood pressure; and high blood sugar levels
  • Preeclampsia - severe, sudden high blood pressure in pregnant women may lead to low birth weight and eye or brain damage in the fetus
  • Trouble with memory or understanding -uncontrolled high blood pressure may also affect your ability to think, remember and learn

Risk Factors

There are several risk factors that play into whether an individual will develop high blood pressure or not. Some of them are within a person’s control, others are not. Risk factors include:

  • Family History
  • Age - the older you are the more likely you are to get high blood pressure
  • Gender (depending on age) –Until age 45 men are most likely; 45-64 men and women have similar rates, 65 and over women are more likely to develop high blood pressure
  • Race - African Americans more than other people of any other racial background in the US and high blood pressure tends to occur at younger ages among African Americans
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Unhealthy diet, especially diets high in sodium
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Drinking too much alcohol

Detecting High Blood Pressure

Fortunately, high blood pressure is easy to detect. If you are unsure if you are at high risk for developing high blood pressure and other health complications, the American Heart Association provides a “Check. Change. Control. Calculator” to help you learn if you’re at risk for things like heart attack and stroke, or you can schedule a wellness check-up at the Center for Healthy Living on Purdue’s West Lafayette campus by calling 494-0111 or via the patient portal.

Managing High Blood Pressure with Help Available

High blood pressure can be easily managed with the variety of tools and resources available.

A few simple modifications in lifestyle can help control high blood pressure. Changes may include eating a healthier diet with less salt, quitting smoking and exercising more regularly. Sometimes, these changes are not enough and more assistance may be needed. Your doctor may recommend medications or additional support, such as a health coach.

The Center for Healthy Living, on Purdue’s West Lafayette campus, has the resources to help support and manage this condition. One-on-one and telephonic health coaching sessions with RN health coaches are offered through the Center throughout the year.  All workshops and one–on–one health coaching sessions are available at no-cost to all benefit-eligible faculty and staff and spouses/dependents covered on a Purdue medical plan.

These options are in place to assist and educate individuals who currently live with high blood pressure, those identified in the prehypertension range, as well as those who are unsure if they fall into either of those categories.

While high blood pressure cannot be cured, the risks associated can be significantly reduced, and managed via lifestyle changes and medication if needed and the Center for Healthy Living has the resources to help. To get started, contact the Center for Healthy Living today.