Almost 30% of American adults have high blood pressure, or hypertension, and many might not realize they have it. High blood pressure often comes with no symptoms or warning signs, so it’s important to measure your blood pressure regularly to confirm it’s in a healthy range. The condition has been called the silent killer, highlighting the danger of letting your blood pressure go unchecked. But there are ways you can reduce your risk of complications from high blood pressure. What’s your risk of developing high blood pressure? Anyone can develop hypertension, even children. But some people run a higher risk than others, depending on genetics and lifestyle choices. If any of these categories apply to you, you’ll need to be extra vigilant about getting your blood pressure checked and keeping it under control. Age: As people get older, their blood pressure tends to go up. More than half of Americans over age 60 have high blood pressure. Race: African American adults are more likely to develop high blood pressure than white or Hispanic Americans. Gender: Men are more likely to develop high blood pressure until about age 45. After age 65, women are more likely to have the condition. Family history: If people in your family have had high blood pressure, you run a higher risk of developing the condition yourself. Lifestyle: Your diet, exercise routine, and stress level play a role in your risk for high blood pressure. Drinking too much alcohol and eating too much sodium or too little potassium all can raise your risk. If you don’t get much exercise or are regularly under a lot of stress, you also have a higher risk. Weight: If you’re overweight or obese, your risk for high blood pressure goes up. What shouldn’t you do if you’re at risk for high blood pressure? There are ways you can manage your risk of developing high blood pressure without medication. While you can’t change your genetics, such as age, race or gender, you can make good lifestyle choices to prevent developing hypertension. For example: Don’t eat junk. Besides managing the amount of sodium in your diet, you also need overall good nutrition and a heart-healthy diet. Choose healthful foods, such as fruits and veggies, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, and fish containing omega-3 fatty acids. Stay away from saturated fats and added sugars, such as high fructose corn syrup, as much as possible. Also get enough potassium, which helps balance the sodium in your body. Don’t forget to exercise. An appropriate regimen will help regulate your blood pressure. Talk with your doctor about what type of exercise is right for you. Don’t let your weight get out of control. With a nutritious diet and regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight becomes much easier. If you’re already overweight or obese, talk with your doctor about healthy ways to drop the excess pounds. Don’t smoke, and don’t drink heavily. Smoking and excessive drinking raise your risk for high blood pressure, so ditch the cigarettes and drink in moderation. Two drinks a day for men younger than 65, one drink per day for men over 65, and one drink a day for all women is generally considered safe. Don’t ignore diabetes risk factors. If you have diabetes, make sure it is well-regulated, because this chronic condition can contribute to your risk for high blood pressure. Don’t forget to check your blood pressure regularly. Be aware of what your systolic and diastolic numbers are so you’ll know if you need to make changes or talk to your doctor about alternative ways to treat prehypertension or hypertension. What are the complications of high blood pressure? If your blood pressure remains high over time, it can cause damage and lead to other health problems, including: Aneurysms Kidney disease Eye problems, including blindness Heart attack Heart failure Stroke Memory loss Pain or numbness in the legs, feet and buttocks If you have many risk factors for high blood pressure, talk with your doctor about the best ways to manage your probability of developing the condition. You may be able to prevent prehypertension or hypertension without medication, simply by changing some of your lifestyle habits.