High blood pressure or hypertension is an insidious disease. Many people don’t notice symptoms until something really bad happens, like a heart attack or stroke. That should be enough reason to get your blood pressure checked regularly. But a new study by researchers at the University of California, San Diego finds that even people whose blood pressure is only moderately elevated may also be at higher risk of stroke.
The researchers studied patients with prehypertension, which is defined as blood pressure that’s elevated but still within the normal range. That’s a systolic pressure reading of 120 to 139 (the top number) and a diastolic reading of 80 to 89 (the bottom number). Doctors estimate that about a third of American adults have prehypertension.
The researchers looked at 12 studies of people with prehypertension and found that they had a 55 percent higher risk of a future stroke than people who did not have prehypertension. People at the high end of prehypertension had a 79 percent risk of a future stroke.
Doctors are continuing to look at the long-term effects of prehypertension. They don’t have all the answers yet. But the best advice for you is to get your blood pressure checked regularly. If your numbers are high, cut down on your salt intake and maintain a normal weight.