Why High Blood Pressure is a "Silent Killer"

Updated:Nov 17,2017
Understand the symptoms and risks of high blood pressure

There’s a reason it’s often called the “silent killer”
Most of the time, high blood pressure (HBP or hypertension) has no obvious symptoms to indicate that something’s wrong. The best ways to protect yourself are being aware of the risks and making changes that matter.

High blood pressure often has no signs or symptoms

  • Many people with high blood pressure don’t even know they have it.
  • High blood pressure develops slowly over time and can be related to many causes
  • High blood pressure cannot be cured. However, it can be managed very effectively through lifestyle changes and, when needed, medication.

Know your numbers
The best way to protect yourself is to learn where you stand by measuring your blood pressure.

BLOOD PRESSURE CATEGORY SYSTOLIC mm Hg
(upper number)
  DIASTOLIC mm Hg
(lower number)
NORMAL LESS THAN 120 and LESS THAN 80
ELEVATED 120 – 129 and LESS THAN 80
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
(HYPERTENSION) STAGE 1
130 – 139 or 80 – 89
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
(HYPERTENSION) STAGE 2
140 OR HIGHER or 90 OR HIGHER
HYPERTENSIVE CRISIS
(consult your doctor immediately)
HIGHER THAN 180 and/or HIGHER THAN 120

Recognize your risks
Being aware of your risk factors — the physical and lifestyle attributes that can make you more likely to develop high blood pressure — can help you identify changes you can make to avoid the threats to your health that can result from your blood pressure being too high for too long.

This content was last reviewed November 2017.

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