Tips for Older Adults to Avoid Scams

NEWS // January 14, 2015

Love Your Heart, Know Your Numbers

One out of every four San Diego adults has been diagnosed with high blood pressure. That equates to over 600,000 San Diegans. Of those diagnosed with high blood pressure, 67% or over 400,000 San Diegans, take medication to control their blood pressure.

High blood pressure or hypertension is known as the silent killer, because often the symptoms go unrecognized. Every month, 40 San Diegans are discharged from the hospital and 22 die due to hypertension. Hypertension can lead to heart disease and stroke. Many more will suffer from heart attack, stroke, or kidney disease for which high blood pressure is often the first indicator of disease.

What is High Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries that carry blood from your heart to other parts of your body. Blood pressure normally rises and falls throughout the day, but it can damage your heart and cause health problems if it stays high for a long time. High blood pressure is also called hypertension.

Having high blood pressure puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke, which are leading causes of death in the United States.1

  • 67 million American adults (31%) have high blood pressure—that’s 1 in every 3 adults.2
  • About 1 in 3 American adults has prehypertension—blood pressure numbers that are higher than normal—but not yet in the high blood pressure range.3
  • Only about half (47%) of people with high blood pressure have their condition under control.3
  • High blood pressure was a primary or contributing cause of death for more than 348,000 Americans in 2009—that's nearly 1,000 deaths each day.1
  • High blood pressure costs the nation $47.5 billion each year. This total includes the cost of health care services, medications to treat high blood pressure, and missed days of work.1

Signs and Symptoms of High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure usually has no warning signs or symptoms, so many people don't realize they have it. Since 1999, more people with high blood pressure—especially those 60 years old or older—have become aware of their condition and received treatment. Unfortunately, about one of five U.S. adults with high blood pressure still do not know that they have it.The only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to have a doctor or other health professional measure it.

Blood pressure is measured using two numbers. A normal adult blood pressure is less than or equal to 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mmHg).  The first or top number, called systolic blood pressure, represents the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats. The second or bottom number, called diastolic blood pressure, represents the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart rests between beats. Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg).

People with levels between 120/80 mmHg and 139/89 mmHg have a condition called prehypertension, which means they are at high risk for developing high blood pressure. This follows that a blood pressure above 140/90 is by definition defined as high blood pressure.

Non Modifiable Factors

Both men and women can have high blood pressure. Some other characteristics that you cannot control—like your age, race, or ethnicity—can affect your risk for high blood pressure.

  • Age. Because your blood pressure tends to rise as you get older, your risk for high blood pressure increases with age. About 9 of 10 Americans will develop high blood pressure during their lifetimes.5
  • Sex. Women are about as likely as men to develop high blood pressure at some point during their lives.
  • Race or ethnicity. Blacks develop high blood pressure more often than whites, Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders, American Indians, or Alaska Natives. Compared to whites, blacks also develop high blood pressure earlier in life.5

Modifiable Factors

Keeping your blood pressure levels in a healthy range usually involves taking prescribed medication, reducing sodium in the diet, getting daily physical activity, and quitting smoking.

Your lifestyle choices can increase your risk for high blood pressure. To reduce your risk, your doctor may recommend changes to your lifestyle.

Behaviors that increase your risk of developing high blood pressure include:

  • Unhealthy Diet – A diet that is too high in sodium and too low in potassium puts you at risk for high blood pressure.
    • Eating too much sodium – an element in table salt – increases blood pressure. Most of the sodium we eat comes from processed and restaurant foods. Learn more about sodium and high blood pressure.
    • Not eating enough potassium also can increase blood pressure. Potassium is found in bananas, potatoes, beans, and yogurt.
  • Physical Inactivity –  Not getting enough physical activity can make you gain weight, which can lead to high blood pressure.
  • Obesity – Obesity is excess body fat. Obesity is linked to higher "bad" cholesterol and triglyceride levels and to lower "good" cholesterol levels. In addition to high blood pressure, obesity can also lead to heart disease and diabetes. Talk to your health care team about a plan to reduce your weight to a healthy level.
  • Too Much Alcohol – Drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure.
    • Women should have no more than 1 drink a day.
    • Men should have no more than 2 drinks a day.
  • Tobacco Use – Tobacco use increases your risk for high blood pressure. Cigarette smoking can damage the heart and blood vessels. Also, nicotine raises blood pressure, and carbon monoxide reduces the amount of oxygen that your blood can carry.

Recap of Love Your Heart 2014

On February 14, 2014, almost 18,000 San Diegans participated in Love Your Heart. There were 17,774 blood pressure screenings performed at over 200 sites across 60 organizations.

One out of every two individuals screened were identified as having an elevated blood pressure. Of these, 57 individuals were identified as having urgent or emergent hypertension requiring immediate medical referral.

Alberta Smith (pictured above), after completing her free blood pressure screening, says: “I take care of my grandson, so I thought it was important to get my blood pressure checked.” She feels her blood pressure could be lower, so she plans to eat more vegetables, drink more water, and walk more.  Her message to her family on Valentine’s Day?: “I love them all, especially my baby sister, older sister and brothers.”


1. Go AS, Mozaffarian D, Roger VL, Benjamin EJ, Berry JD, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2013 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2013;127:e6–e245.

2. Egan BM, Zhao Y, Axon RN. US trends in prevalence, awareness, treatment, and control of hypertension, 1988–2008. JAMA. 2010;303(20):2043–50.

3. CDC. Vital signs: awareness and treatment of uncontrolled hypertension among adults—United States, 2003–2010. MMWR. 2012;61(35);703–9.

4.  Go AS, Mozaffarian D, Roger VL, et al; the American Heart Association Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2013 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2013;127:e6-245.

5. Vasan RS, Beiser A, Seshadri S, et al. Residual lifetime risk for developing hypertension in middle-aged women and men: the Framingham Heart Study. JAMA. 2002;287(10):1003–1010.