Firestorm Expert Dr. Don Donahue on Hypertension and Young Adults

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Analysis by: Dr. Don Donahue, Director, Firestorm Healthcare Response Team

HEADLINE: 1 in 5 young adults has high blood pressure

SUMMARY: About 20 percent of Americans age 24 to 32 have high blood pressure, according to a new study. The figure was much higher than previous estimates of around 4 percent.

The researchers followed more than 14,000 kids since 1995, in an effort to catalog their health from adolescence to adulthood. At their most recent check-in, in 2008, they discovered the high rates of hypertension and found that close to 37 percent were obese.

The researchers believe the increase can be attributed largely to the obesity epidemic in America, combined with a diet high in sodium-laden processed foods and very little exercise. Most of the 24-32 year-olds in the study had no idea there was a problem.

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ANALYSIS:  Increased incidence of hypertension is one of several silent epidemics that threaten individual health, the economy, and the nation. Consider the near universal concern over rising health costs; a significant portion of those costs can be attributed to increased morbidity (illness) from chronic conditions. Often related, obesity and hypertension can result in stroke, myocardial infarction, heart failure, arterial aneurysm, and chronic kidney failure.

The sad part is these dangers can usually be readily countered by dietary and lifestyle changes. Losing weight, increasing exercise, and eating healthier are simple ways to reduce risk, although for some physician-prescribed drug treatment may be necessary.

The initial step is self awareness.

Many pharmacies and grocery stores have free blood pressure machines. Simple to use home monitors are also available. While this may seem excessive, especially when there are no outward signs of anything wrong, these high numbers in a young adult population reveal the lurking danger in what has been termed a “silent killer.” Hypertension is a prime example of how prevention is better than a cure.

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