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Learn Your Numbers
NIH Observes High Blood Pressure Education Month

In observance of National High Blood Pressure Education Month in May, the National High Blood Pressure Education Program (NHBPEP) is calling on all NIH employees to 1) learn your blood pressure numbers, 2) find out what they mean and 3) take action to prevent or control high blood pressure.

In addition to working with NIH Cafeteria Services and Occupational Medical Services to provide special High Blood Pressure Month activities at NIH, NHBPEP, which is coordinated by NHLBI, is also launching a national marketing initiative to reinvigorate the issue of high blood pressure prevention and control on the nation's public health agenda and on the personal agendas of all Americans. The new initiative, called "Prevent and Control High Blood Pressure: Mission Possible," is designed to attract new partners to help take high blood pressure prevention and control messagesto their own constituents.

Says NHLBI acting director Dr. Barbara Alving, "Although there have been substantial gains in high blood pressure prevention and control since the NHBPEP was created in 1972, high blood pressure continues to take an enormous toll on our society. Now that we know that most Americans are likely to develop high blood pressure as they age, we are more determined than ever to fight this silent killer."

High blood pressure currently affects roughly 50 million Americans, and millions more have prehypertension, which puts them at high risk of developing high blood pressure. Recent research from the Framingham Heart Study has also shown that the risk of developing high blood pressure among people ages 55 and older is roughly 90 percent.

Says Alving, "Due to the aging of the population and the increasing prevalence of obesity, high blood pressure is likely to become an even greater problem unless we act now."

While public awareness of high blood pressure has increased, and virtually all Americans have had their blood pressure levels measured, most people don't fully understand how devastating a condition high blood pressure is. Following are some facts about high blood pressure that should make you think twice about ignoring it.

  • High blood pressure increases our risk for heart disease — the number 1 cause of death in the United States for both men and women;
  • High blood pressure is a factor in 50 percent of heart attacks in the U.S.;
  • High blood pressure is a factor in two-thirds of strokes, which are the number 3 cause of death in the U.S.;
  • High blood pressure precedes 90 percent of cases of heart failure;
  • High blood pressure is the second leading cause of chronic kidney failure in the U.S. — responsible for 26 percent of all cases;
  • High blood pressure affects circulation — creating a higher risk for mental deterioration and Alzheimer's disease;
  • Young African American adults are twice as likely as Caucasians to have high blood pressure;
  • High blood pressure causes more visits to doctors than any other condition — just a 10 percent decline in the number of visits would save $160 million each year.

National High Blood Pressure Month activities at NIH will include special lower-salt dishes in the cafeterias/dining centers in Bldgs. 1, 31, 10 and 45; 20 percent-off coupons for these dishes, and fruit basket giveaways. For menus and coupons, visit the NIH Cafeteria Services web site at

Occupational Medical Services already provides free walk-in blood pressure screenings in its clinics in Bldgs. 10 and 13. In addition, during May, special screenings will take place in Rockledge 1, Executive Plaza North and the NIH Poolesville Animal Care Facility. For more information, visit the OMS web site at Additional information about preventing and controlling high blood pressure will be available in the NIH cafeterias and clinics during May, as well as on the NHLBI web site at

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