Seven Reasons to Stop Ignoring this Silent Killer

At Shore Physicians Group’s Mays Landing office, Family Nurse Practitioner Cindy Nunan, DNP, has a lot to share with her patients who have high blood pressure, but one of the most important pieces of advice she has for them? “Just check it!”

Unfortunately, one in three Americans has high blood pressure (see chart) but only a third of those individuals are aware of it. Nunan can’t stress enough the importance of checking your blood pressure regularly. That means at least once a year if you’re low risk, and every few months if you have high blood pressure or it runs in your family. You can have your blood pressure checked at your provider’s office, using an at-home machine, or even using the free machines at pharmacies and grocery stores.

“High blood pressure is called a ‘silent killer’ because it usually exists without any symptoms, but it’s slowly taking its toll on your body over time,” Nunan says. “As a clinician, high blood pressure is not something that I take lightly, nor should you. If you don’t know your blood pressure, it’s time to find out.”

Nunan works with her patients who have high blood pressure to help them make lifestyle changes to bring their blood pressure down, from recommending smoking cessation and nutrition counseling to encouraging exercise and weight loss.

“My goal is to ultimately help people realize how serious high blood pressure is and motivate them to act so we can help to prevent heart attack, stroke and even death,” Nunan says.

Wondering what can happen if you ignore your high blood pressure for too long? According to the American Heart Association, here are some of the most serious possible outcomes:

  1. Heart Attack: High blood pressure strains the arteries and can cause blockages, which starves it of oxygen and nutrients and results in damage or death of part of the heart muscle. Approximately 735,000 people have a heart attack each year, and 17 percent of those people will die.
  2. Stroke: Stroke occurs as the result of weakened blood vessels in the brain that burst or clog from prolonged high blood pressure, preventing oxygen from flowing to the brain, which can cause serious disability and even death.
  3. Heart Failure: Prolonged high blood pressure overworks the heart, causing it to enlarge and fail to supply adequate blood to the body.
  4. Kidney Disease or Failure: Arteries carry blood from the heart to the rest of the body, including the kidneys, where damaged arteries can interfere with the kidney’s ability to filter blood. High blood pressure is the second leading cause of kidney failure. Kidney failure could require dialysis or even a kidney transplant.
  5. Vision Loss: Blood vessels in the eyes can become damaged from high blood pressure, causing blurred vision or loss of sight. It can also lead to fluid buildup under the retina, or nerve damage, both of which can cause impaired vision.
  6. Sexual Dysfunction: Damage to blood vessels means reduced blood flow to the pelvic region as well, which can cause erectile dysfunction in men and a lower libido in women. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, it’s important to have your blood pressure checked right away
  7. Dementia: There has long been a correlation between high blood pressure and dementia, but a recent study in the European Heart Journal says that even an elevated systolic blood pressure of just 130 mm Hg in middle age can increase your risk for developing dementia in middle age by 38 percent, even though 140 mm Hg is typically the level when medications are prescribed.

While some high blood pressure can be caused by genetics, far more people have it as a result of unhealthy lifestyle choices, including smoking, heavy drinking, lack of exercise and obesity.

“One way or another, high blood pressure will catch up to you if you don’t address it,” says Nunan. “It’s not so much a matter if you’ll develop one of the serious conditions caused by high blood pressure, but when. The good news is that you can start today to lower your risk by making healthy lifestyle choices.”

Cindy Nunan practices at Shore Physicians Group’s Mays Landing office located in the Shore Health Park at 5401 Harding Highway, Suite 3. Her hours are Monday through Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. To make an appointment, call 609-365-6217. Learn more about Cindy Nunan at