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6 Health Conditions That Have No Symptoms Until It's Too Late

Rodale's Organic Life Logo By Hallie Levine of Rodale's Organic Life | Slide 1 of 6

High blood pressure

Almost half of all people with high blood pressure don't know that they have it, according to a 2013 Canadian study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. "You can go for a long time ignoring it, and then all of a sudden it's like falling of a cliff: You end up having a heart attack, or a stroke, or develop kidney disease," says Mary Bauman, MD, a cardiologist in Oklahoma City and national spokeswoman for the American Heart Association's Go Red For Women movement. "The disease keeps marching on whether you know you have it or not, silently doing damage to your blood vessels as it goes."

Protect Yourself

Get your blood pressure checked once a year, even if you don't have any risk factors. "You don't even need to go into your doctor's office—you can get it done at most drugstores and even supermarkets," points out Bauman. If you have pre-hypertension—defined as blood pressure between 120 to 129 mmHg (the systolic, or upper number) and/or 80 to 89 mmHg (the diastolic, or lower number)—your doctor will most likely recommend lifestyle measures like losing weight: According to a recent Cochrane review, losing about 9 pounds can reduce systolic blood pressure by 4.5 points. If you have full-blown hypertension (meaning your blood pressure is above 140/90 mmHg) you may need an ACE inhibitor or beta blocker medication, says Bauman.

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