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Monday, February 03, 2014 - High blood pressure is on the rise among young adults

High blood pressure is on the rise among young adults

By Orlando Mills, M.D., M.P.H.

If you're a young adult, it is unlikely that high blood pressure (hypertension) is high on your list of health concerns. But recent studies found that nearly one in five young adults between the ages of 24 and 32 were clinically diagnosed with the condition. Not surprisingly, most had no idea they were living with this medical condition that put them at higher risk for heart disease and stroke. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States and stroke ranks third.

What is the Cause?

Young people in particular are more inclined to consume a diet that includes fast food, high-fat snacks, alcohol and sugar. Additionally, stress in the workplace, limited time for regular exercise and lack of quality sleep are also contributing factors. Cumulatively, this lifestyle can often be a ticket to a battle with obesity, also a key contributor to hypertension and other chronic medical conditions. A new Northwestern University medical study determined that young adults carrying high personal debt is also associated with higher diastolic blood pressure and poorer self-reported general and mental health.

It is likely that the onset of hypertension-related chronic illness may not set-in until later in life. Therefore, getting a proper diagnosis and starting treatment as early as possible is essential. One of the biggest challenges is that this condition often does not present any significant physical symptoms, but can nonetheless result in permanent damage to the brain, heart, kidneys and eyes.

How to protect yourself

The best prevention against hypertension is to focus on living a healthy lifestyle, even in your early 20s. Many young adults suddenly find themselves battling obesity for the first time in their lives. But by eating a diet low in saturated fat and salt, exercising regularly, sleeping seven hours a night, avoiding substance abuse, knowing your family history and minimizing stress can all help to offset hypertension and other diseases including diabetes, heart disease and even cancer.

Make sure your family physician checks your blood pressure during your annual physical. Make a point to discuss your results (even if they are normal) and family history with the doctor and keep track of your numbers year-to-year. Generally speaking, you should aim for 115/76 or less. As a young adult you may look and feel invincible, but cover your bases by reviewing your personal risk for high blood pressure disease and protect yourself for the long run.

Where to go for support

CentraState’s Star and Barry Tobias Health Awareness Center offers a range of health-focused, lifestyle programs designed specifically for adults, children and seniors. Visit centrastate.com/healthprograms for a complete listing of classes or call 732-308-0570. CentraState Medical Center also offers one-on-one nutritional counseling on an outpatient basis. To speak with a registered dietitian, call 732-294-2766. Additionally, CentraState’s Fitness and Wellness Center provides a full spectrum of programs designed to improve the health and well being of everyone in the community and is the perfect environment to achieve health and wellness goals comfortably and safely.  And, to locate a primary care doctor in your area, call CentraState’s physician finder at (866) CENTRA7 or search the physician database.

Dr. Mills is a graduate of Princeton University and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ). He also earned a master’s degree in Public Health at the Robert Wood Johnson School of Public Health. Dr. Mills is a board-certified physician specializing in family medicine and on staff at CentraState Medical Center. He can be reached at Orlando Mills Associates by calling 732-303-6455.