If you knew there was a silent killer lurking, just waiting to strike its next victim, and that there was a one in four chance that victim might be you, would you be worried? Would you do everything you could to protect yourself? Of course you would. Well, it's a reality, and the silent killer is high blood pressure.

Why is high blood pressure, also called hypertension, so dangerous? Each time your heart beats, it pumps about two to three ounces of blood. When you're at rest, it does this 60 to 80 times per minute -- or more than 100,000 times a day. All told, your heart pumps roughly 2,000 gallons of blood through the nearly 60,000 miles of blood vessels in your body every day! If the blood encounters any resistance as it flows through your blood vessels, it places more force against your artery walls -- it increases your blood pressure -- making your heart work even harder. That's why high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. It also increases the risk for developing kidney, eye, and nerve problems.

In this article, we will explore high blood pressure and the dietary changes you can make as part of an alternative treatment to control it.

By the Numbers

The statistics are sobering: High blood pressure affects approximately 50 million people in the United States and more than one billion people worldwide. The higher your blood pressure, the greater your risk of heart attack, heart failure, stroke, and kidney disease.

At younger ages, more men suffer high blood pressure, but after age 65, more women are afflicted.

And women account for more deaths from the disease. In fact, more than a quarter of adult American women have high blood pressure; after age 60, more than half of them do, with the percentages rising every year after that.

Scarier still are the statistics for minorities. African Americans are twice as likely to have high blood pressure and four times as likely to die from it. Puerto Ricans, Cuban Americans, and Mexican Americans are at greater risk, as well.

Check-Ins Required

If you have high blood pressure, odds are you have essential hypertension. That simply means doctors have no idea what caused it, although heredity and age likely played large roles. A small minority of people have secondary hypertension, meaning high blood pressure is a symptom of an underlying problem, which if corrected may remedy the high blood pressure. Essential hypertension, however, has no cure. You must treat it for life -- with lifestyle changes and possibly drugs as well.

If hypertension has no symptoms, how do you know you have it? You must have your blood pressure checked regularly. Be sure to ask what your reading is every time, so you know if you're straying from your norm.

It's normal for blood pressure to vary throughout the day and to be affected by emotions, activity, and even eating. Often, just being in a doctor's office can raise blood pressure slightly. That's why it's so important to check it regularly. But one abnormal reading is nothing to worry about; high blood pressure is never diagnosed from a single reading.

In the next section, we will learn what the numbers on a high blood pressure reading actually mean. Knowing those numbers will help you determine when you need to follow the alternative treatments to help bring down your blood pressure.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.