High blood pressure – Why knowing your numbers matters

About 70 million Americans have high blood pressure, and nearly as many have prehypertension, which is when blood pressure numbers are higher than normal but not yet in the high blood pressure range.  Only about half of those people have their condition under control, and still others are unaware of their risk.

More than 360,000 American deaths in 2013 included high blood pressure as a primary or contributing cause. That’s almost 1,000 deaths each day. Even if your own blood pressure is within a healthy range, high blood pressure is still affecting you. The condition costs the nation about $46 billion every year.

We have the power to change these numbers.  One in every three people in the U.S. is a member of a Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance plan, which means they have access to the tests and care they need to prevent, diagnose and manage high blood pressure.  Blue Cross Blue Shield plans provide access to preventative care like blood pressure screenings, often with no out-of-pocket cost.  This allows our members to learn their risk early and help avoid more serious conditions, like heart disease and stroke, later on down the road.

Because high blood pressure is a symptomless condition, people can have it for years without knowing.  The only real way to determine whether you are at risk is to have your blood pressure measured by a healthcare professional, which is why having regular blood pressure screenings is so important.

Blood pressure is a routine test you’re likely to receive each time you visit the doctor. It involves placing a cuff around your upper arm to measure the force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps.  It’s a quick and painless measurement that can help save your life.

When you have your blood pressure checked, the results will include two numbers.  The top number is your systolic pressure, the pressure your heart exerts while pumping blood. The bottom number is your diastolic pressure, the pressure your heart exerts when it is at rest between beats.  Your numbers will fall into one of these groups: 

Talk with your doctor about whether your blood pressure falls within a normal range.  If not, he or she can help you devise a plan to manage your condition to avoid a more serious one.  This might include taking medication, reducing sodium intake, starting an exercise plan or quitting smoking. Whatever the treatment, BCBS members can approach the plan fearlessly knowing they have the compassion of the cross and the security of the shield behind them.

If you’d like to have your blood pressure checked, make an appointment with your doctor, or search for one covered by your plan. You can also find additional information and resources on this pervasive condition from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Heart Association, or by exploring episodes of the PBS medical television series Second Opinion.

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The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association is an association of 36 independent, locally operated Blue Cross and/or Blue Shield companies.