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HEALTH WATCH: High blood pressure
One in three American adults has high blood pressure -- which left untreated can lead to stroke, heart or kidney failure.
A longtime cardiologist shares what he tells his patients on how to avoid -- and treat this silent killer in today's health watch report.
Veteran cardiologist James Williams says people need to know that high blood pressure is not an "old age" condition.
"People really ought to know their blood pressure by the time they're in their 20s cause it can happen to you."
John Pontarolo was in good physical shape in his mid 30s when he started having hypertension symptoms.
"Frequent headaches, felt like my heart was skipping, having what they call palpitations."
The former Air Force medic has a family history of high blood pressure -- so he knew to have his checked. It was 200 over 100, dangerously high.
"If it's typically running 140 for the upper number and 90 for the lower number, that's not normal and it will damage your body."
Pontarolo cut his salt and caffeine, increased his workouts, ate even healthier than before.
"I fought being put on medicine. I tried everything I could even think of on the holistic supplement. I tried everything in the book."
Nothing worked...Pontarolo finally began taking prescription blood pressure medicine and today it's under control.
Williams says Pontarolo is lucky, he at least had symptoms, and the self awareness to get help.
"If it starts that young, without it being recognized, it's a disaster. Think of the years of life that would be lost.
A few years ago -- Williams realized he had severe high blood pressure, it runs in his family.
"And I for some reason I thought that I was not going to be affected which is natural but not true."
Williams says he tells his patients to invest in a good quality, automatic blood pressure cuff that matches the size of their arm.
"If the cuff is too big for your arm it will give you an artificially low reading. If it's too small for your arm it will give you an artificially high reading."
Williams says its best to check your blood pressure at home.
"If it's not normal, rest calmly and quietly for five minutes at least. Then take it again, which ever ones lower that's the one that counts."
Pontarolo still checks his blood pressure daily.
He says his scare has actually made him healthier over all...
"More likely to go to the gym, I know I have a reason to go and keep myself in shape."