A new government survey suggests that almost one out of every three adults in the United States now has hypertension. That's a blood pressure level of 140 over 90, or higher.
Dr. Richard Stein, who is with the American Heart Association, says a possible reason for the increase is that more Americans today are overweight and physically inactive.
"Being sedentary and being overweight is harmful to the cells that line the inside of your blood vessels and these cells are critical in blood pressure."
Andrew Starbin was diagnosed with high blood pressure just last month. He is 33-years-old.
"I never thought that high blood pressure would be something on my radar screen until maybe I was in my 50's and 60's."
The older you are the greater your risk for hypertension. A 70-year-old, for example, has a 75 percent chance of having high blood pressure.
The American Heart Association says most adults should get their blood pressure checked once a year. However, studies suggest almost a third of Americans who have hypertension don't even know it."
Dr. Benjamin Ansell/UCLA School of Medicine: "High blood pressure in most circumstances does not have any associated symptoms. So, patients can feel perfectly well and have this ominous health risk."
The longer hypertension goes untreated, the greater the damage. Blood vessels become stiffer, and narrower, increasing the risk of a heart attack or stroke. The heart itself can become enlarged, and weaker. And, it can cause kidneys to shut down.
While some patients can lower their blood pressure with diet and exercise, the vast majority have to take one or more medications a day, as Andrew Starbin has just discovered.