Harvard Men's Health Watch

Take your pills

Hypertension is one of the most common medical problems in the United States; at present, one of every three adults in our country has high blood pressure. It's a shame since many, if not most, cases could be prevented by simple lifestyle measures such as dietary salt restriction, weight control, and moderate exercise.

Hypertension is also one of the most important medical problems in America; it sharply increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and kidney failure. That's also a shame, since excellent drugs are available to lower blood pressure and prevent these deadly complications.

You don't have to bring your pressure down to normal (below 120/80 millimeters of mercury) to get the benefit of treatment. Simply lowering an elevated blood pressure to modest treatment targets (below 140/90 for people without certain complicating conditions; below 130/80 for those with diabetes, kidney disease, heart failure, or atherosclerosis) can cut the risk of heart attack and stroke by about 34% and 21%, respectively. But the biggest shame of all is that only about 44% of hypertensive patients reach these goals.

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