Changes to Live with

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The American Heart Association estimates that nearly a third of adults in the U.S. are living with high blood pressure, but only a third of those people know they have it.
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is called the "silent killer" because people often don't learn they have it until something goes wrong, and that could be kidney failure, stroke or even heart failure.
Lynn Hankel has lived with the disease for more than 20 years, and relied mainly on medication to regulate it.

But recently, those medications weren't getting the job done.
"I was going into the big guns, heavier doses," says Hankel. "I decided that I needed to do something myself. I could not depend on a doctor to give me a prescription and have it work."

Using exercise and watching her diet, Lynn lost 50 lbs. and has kept it off for a year and a half.

With a little help from medication, her blood pressure is now at a normal level.
"I can get out and do things that I didn't do before because of it, because I was limited with the weight and the blood pressure and all the things that went with it," says Lynn. "I just didn't do them and now I look forward to them."

Dr. M. Diaa Alaoua says many people will need medication to help regulate their blood pressure for their entire life.

Losing weight and exercising like Lynn did lowers blood pressure, but Dr. Alaoua also suggests patients cut down on alcohol intake, quit smoking and decrease the amount of salt they use on their food.

With a disease known as the silent killer, an early diagnosis can be crucial.

"You can have it and it does not produce any symptoms until you start having damages in the organs because of it."

The disease can be detected by having blood pressure monitored at regular check-ups. It can target all ages and for the majority of patients will never go away.

Lynn says through her healthier lifestyle, she has made a network of friends, but also hopes having her hypertension under control will allow her to spend more time with her family, including four grandchildren.

"It's important for them to be a part of my life and for me to be a part of theirs," says Hankel. "I would like to see them grow up and get married and have children. It may not happen but I certainly would like to see it."