The reason doctors and other concerned professionals stress the early detection and treatment of high blood pressure is its role in promoting arteriosclerotic disease.
It ranks first as a cause of stroke and heart attack and is a primary factor in congestive heart failure. This was established by the Framingham study. In a continuous study begun in 1949, the town of Framingham, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston, was turned into a population laboratory to investigate the effects of various factors on the cardiovascular system of more than five thousand people. It was found that in the same age group the risk of congestive heart failure was six times greater for hypertensives than for persons whose blood pressure was normal. That explains why in the past, before we were able to treat high blood pressure effectively, almost 50% of all persons with high blood pressure died of congestive heart failure. Today myocardial infarction is the cause of death of about 30% of people suffering from high blood pressure, and about the same number have fatal strokes.
As the blood pressure goes up so does the threat to health. And if other risk factors are also present, the danger to heart and circulation increases proportionately. Thus a diabetic with high blood pressure is ten times more likely to suffer a heart attack than a diabetic with normal blood pressure. In a study conducted among a group of San Francisco longshoremen it was found that high blood pressure plus cigarette smoking was a particularly dangerous combination. The incidence of heart attacks was ten times greater among smokers with high blood pressure than among smokers whose blood pressure was normal. And we know that even with normal blood pressure the incidence of heart attacks is twice as high among smokers as among nonsmokers.
High blood pressure beyond any doubt is one of the most common and most dangerous diseases of modern life And although we lack exact statistics about its incidence and the number of undetected cases, we can safely assume that almost 15% of all adults in advanced countries, and about 20-25% of all persons above the age of forty, have high blood pressure. In other words, one out of every five adults who sees a doctor for any reason whatsoever is found to have high blood pressure. Above and beyond this alarming figure lies the equally disturbing number of undetected cases. Here we can only guess, but on the basis of what we know we can assume that as many as 30% of all cases of high blood pressure go undetected.
If this figure comes as a surprise to you then you should ask yourself whether you yourself are not perhaps one of those unknown cases. High blood pressure, an asymptomatic ailment, can continue over many years without sending out any typical warning signals. Usually its existence is discovered by accident, in the course of a visit to a doctor's office for some other reason. Strangely enough some doctors do not bother to take the blood , pressure as a matter of course. In view of the many undetected cases, by sure to ask to have your blood pressure checked every time you see your doctor.