Answers To FAQs About Living With High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is a common condition in the United States. Almost half (47%¹) of the population has hypertension (a more severe case of high blood pressure), and there is a lifetime risk of 90%² for developing hypertension. This means that even if you are middle-aged and haven’t been diagnosed with high blood pressure, there's still a nine out of ten chance that you will be.

For this reason, it is important for those with high blood pressure or who know someone with high blood pressure to continue learning about the condition. Knowledge is powerful for early detection, especially since this condition often comes without symptoms.

Regular visits to your doctor for checkups will also make a significant difference in early detection and treatment.

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What is the life expectancy of someone with high blood pressure?

How long can you live with high blood pressure? It depends. When undetected for an extended period and untreated, the condition can become increasingly dangerous — possibly even fatal.

On the other hand, the life expectancy of someone with controlled high blood pressure can often be well into retirement age.

With that being said, research³ does show that although you can live a long life, it may be five to seven years shorter than those without high blood pressure. Some potential causes⁴ of this shorter life expectancy include smoking and obesity.

First, if you're a smoker, you are looking at a potential decrease in life expectancy (LE) due to not only conditions associated with smoking but elevated hypertension brought on by smoking. Likewise, obesity can increase blood pressure (blood pressure) to dangerous levels, which can lead to a shorter LE.

There is also an increase in the risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD), myocardial infarction (MI), and stroke among both men and women with hypertension, all of which could be dangerous and even fatal if not properly treated. 

Can you live a long life with treated high blood pressure?

It's important to remember that high blood pressure is not usually a death sentence. As long as you're regularly working with your doctor on treatment and managing your blood pressure levels, you will likely live a long life. This includes making significant changes to your health and lifestyle for the better.

According to the Centers for Disease and Control (CDC), the following changes can be very beneficial:

Will I die early from high blood pressure?

While early death isn’t typically attributed to high blood pressure, there are cases where premature death due to hypertension may be possible. For instance, people who experience blood pressures equal to or higher than 180/120mm Hg and do not get treated have an 80% higher chance of dying within the year. There is an average survival rate of only ten months in these cases.

There are also increased odds of developing fatal heart disease (such as heart attack or arrhythmias) and kidney diseases if you go untreated for a long time. These can also contribute to an early death.

What can trigger high blood pressure?

Some common triggers for high blood pressure can include:

  • Being overweight or obese

  • A diet containing a large amount of sodium and few fruits and vegetables

  • Age

  • Smoking

  • Certain health conditions 

Being overweight or obese

Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for high blood pressure that can be prevented with a healthy diet and regular exercise.

One study⁵ notes that obesity increases the concentration of norepinephrine, a stress hormone, which raises blood pressure. Extra fat tissue affects the kidneys by increasing salt and fluid retention, which also leads to high blood pressure.

Diets high in sodium and low in nutrients

Many studies have been done on the association between high dietary sodium intake and hypertension. One study⁶ reported that high sodium is linked to hypertension, morbidity, and mortality from cardiovascular diseases. Restricting your sodium if you have hypertension has been shown⁷ to lower blood pressure effectively.

On the other hand, another study⁸ found that participants who consumed four or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day had a lower risk of being diagnosed with hypertension.

Age

Another risk factor for developing hypertension is being 65 or older.

In fact, research⁹ has revealed that more than 7,000,000 premature deaths and 4.5% of the global disease burden had resulted from hypertension, with the elderly being affected at a higher rate.

The report included a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey that compared the high percentage of hypertension cases among the elderly at 70% versus the much lower 32% for those between 40 and 59 years old.

Smoking

Smokers are also at a higher risk of developing hypertension than non-smokers. One study¹⁰ revealed that not only does smoking take years off your life expectancy and decrease your quality of life, but the life-course impact of smoking also increases your risk of hypertension, respiratory conditions, and myocardial infarction.

Smoking is strongly associated¹¹ with increased heart rate and blood pressure. The journal also reported a link to malignant hypertension, which refers to dangerously high blood pressure that comes on quickly and seemingly out of nowhere.

Malignant hypertension can be fatal if not treated right away, so speak with your doctor if you have any concerns. With timely treatment, you can control the condition.

Health conditions

It's also common for some people to have high blood pressure due to other health conditions. At least one in 20¹² high blood pressure cases is caused by either an underlying health condition or a medication. Medical conditions often linked to high blood pressure include lupus, obstructive sleep apnea, kidney disease and kidney infections, diabetes, and an overactive thyroid.

What are the symptoms of high blood pressure?

Hypertension is commonly referred to as the 'silent killer.' The reason is that there are often no signs or symptoms associated with high blood pressure. The only way to know whether you have high blood pressure is to check it. Your doctor will be able to identify whether there's an issue with your blood and how to treat it properly.

What should you know about your high blood pressure as you age?

High blood pressure can result from aging because, as we get older, it's common for our arteries to stiffen, which raises blood pressure — even among exceptionally healthy individuals.

Not having developed hypertension by the time you reach your forties or fifties does not guarantee you will never get it. High blood pressure is very prevalent, especially as you age.

Here is some additional information to know about your high blood pressure as you age:

High blood pressure guidelines were updated in 2017

11 health organizations — including the American  Heart Association and American College of Cardiology — came together in 2017¹³ to change blood pressure guidelines. This means that while a blood pressure of 130/80mm Hg was once not considered elevated, it is now.

The guidelines are divided into five blood pressure levels:

  1. Normal — <120/<80mm Hg

  2. Elevated — 120-129/<80mm Hg

  3. Stage 1 High Blood Pressure or Hypertension — 130-139 or 80-89mm Hg

  4. Stage 2 High Blood Pressure or Hypertension — 140+ or 90+mm Hg

  5. Hypertension Crisis (extremely concerning, consult your doctor immediately) — 180+ and/or >120mm Hg

High blood pressure numbers vary by age

While a general adult average of <120/<80mm HG  is recommended, you should note that those numbers vary depending on multiple factors. Current health conditions and genetics affect the average healthy blood pressure, and age can play an important role.

For a little more insight, the following is an example of normal blood pressure by age (assuming no other factors play a role).

Males by age:

  • 21 to 25 — 120.5/78. 5 

  • 26 to 30 — 119.5/76.5

  • 31 to 35 — 114.5.75.5

  • 36 to 40 — 120.5/75.5 

  • 41 to 45 — 115.5/78.5

  • 46 to 50 — 119.5/80.5 

  • 51 to 55 — 125.5/80.5

  • 56 to 60 — 129.5/79.5

  • 61 to 65 — 143.5/76.5

Females by age:

  • 21 to 25 — 115.5/70.5

  • 26 to 30 — 113.5/71.5

  • 31 to 35 — 110.5/72.5

  • 36 to 40 — 112.5/74.5

  • 41 to 45 — 116.5/73.5

  • 46 to 50 — 124/78.5

  • 51 to 55 — 122.55/74.5

  • 56 to 60 — 132.5/78.5

  • 61 to 65 — 130.5/77.5

Again, other factors still contribute to these numbers, so while they may apply to some, they may not for others. It's always better to discuss your current blood pressure levels and target preferred ones with your doctor. They will have full access to your medical history and conditions, allowing them to provide solutions that will specifically contribute to your overall well-being.

What type of diet should I follow if I have high blood pressure or hypertension?

If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, one of the first changes to make is to your diet. Your doctor may advise you to meet with a nutritionist to discuss implementing the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet into your routine.

The traditional serving guide provided for a patient following the DASH diet consists of daily intake of the following (refer to the DASH Diet To Stop Hypertension¹⁴ publication for more information):

  • Five servings of vegetables

  • Five servings of fruits

  • Approximately seven servings of carbohydrates

  • Two servings of low-fat dairy products

  • Two lean meat products or less

  • Nuts and seeds two to three times a week

One study¹⁵ found a positive correlation between combining the DASH diet and lowering your sodium intake with healthier blood pressure averages.

Another study¹⁶ reviews the many studies supporting the benefits of a DASH diet following its initial publication 20 years ago. The DASH diet has been and continues to be a reliable dietary tool that contributes to improved blood pressure readings.

The lowdown

One of the first things most people do when they or some they know is diagnosed with high blood pressure is read up on it to better understand how this happened and how it can be treated or managed. This is understandable since knowledge of the condition is very important to lower your blood pressure to a healthy level.

To help, we addressed and answered some of the most frequently asked questions about living with high blood pressure. Here is a snippet of the questions and answers covered:

  • What is the life expectancy of someone with high blood pressure? There is no concrete number for life expectancy, but research shows that while you may not live as long as someone who does not have hypertension, you can live a long life with well-controlled high blood pressure. 

  • Can you live a long life with treated high blood pressure? Similarly, there is no way to guarantee that you will, but it is possible. How long you live with hypertension depends on how well you're living up to the recommendations provided to you by your doctor, as well as other conditions in your medical history. 

  • Will I die early from high blood pressure? Hypertension is not usually a death sentence! However, you could pass away prematurely if you have untreated blood pressure readings equal to or above 180/120mm Hg, a dangerous condition called malignant hypertension. 

  • What can trigger high blood pressure? Several risk factors are associated with high blood pressure, including age, other health conditions, smoking, excess weight, and excessive sodium in your diet. 

  • What are the symptoms of high blood pressure? Unfortunately, high blood pressure is often referred to as the 'silent killer' for a reason. It doesn’t always cause signs and symptoms, so it is up to you to schedule regular checkups with your doctor to ensure it does not get dangerously high. 

  • What should you know about your high blood pressure as you age? You should know four things about your blood pressure as you age. First, your age could be the reason you have hypertension. Second, hypertension prevalence is 70% in those 60 years old and older. Third, high blood pressure guidelines have changed in the last five years, creating stricter cutoff levels for what is considered normal blood pressure, so an updated version may suggest that you have high blood pressure despite not qualifying as such before 2017. Finally, your age and gender may affect the blood pressure averages considered 'normal.' 

  • What type of diet should I follow if I have high blood pressure or hypertension? Experts recommend following the DASH diet if you have hypertension. The first publication to support the DASH diet was introduced more than 20 years ago, and research shows that it remains consistently relevant today.

While these FAQs will provide you with more of a general understanding of hypertension and what you can expect from the condition, it is recommended to consult your doctor with any questions or concerns you have. High blood pressure averages vary from person to person, so your doctor will be able to find the perfect treatment and management solutions for you based on your medical history.

Have you considered clinical trials for High blood pressure?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for High blood pressure, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Joining community groups and exercise programs for my condition made me feel empowered – but I want to be part of finding a cure.
Peter, 64

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