I had a screening not too long ago of my carotid artery for any blockage. They also checked the aorta for any sign of aortic aneurysms, and my blood pressure was measured on both arms and both legs to check for any indication of peripheral vascular disease or hypertension. This was a free checkup provided by Genworth Life and Annuity as a policyholder.

This became especially meaningful today when I got a call that a close friend of mine is in the hospital. She is still undergoing tests, but it appears she may have suffered a mini-stroke, possibly caused by a clot thrown by a small tear in her carotid artery.

Now, any one of those things I was tested for could be a silent killer. Certainly they are things that can get to the point of bursting, blocking or otherwise causing damage that can kill you, and do it in a very quick fashion, all with no symptoms to warn you to run for cover. The one that actually captured the nickname though is high blood pressure, also called hypertension.

Why the silent killer? It seems that, according to the American Heart Association, one in three Americans have high blood pressure and one third of those aren’t aware of it because there are no symptoms and (probably because they are guys) they never get checkups. So why is high blood pressure a big deal?

It’s worth noting that hypertension is a risk factor for several severe health issues. One instance of high blood pressure is generally not no that big a deal, but constant high blood pressure can cause a number of collateral health issues. The American Heart Association provides us a high blood pressure health risk calculator . Plug yourself in and find out where you stand when it comes to risk of heart attack, stroke, heart failure and kidney disease. Play with the weight a few times and see how obesity affects things.

Life insurance underwriters aren’t concerned with the small picture and isolated incidents, although if your blood pressure is high on their exam there is a tendency for them to wonder how often it is high. They are concerned with what happens if you have an undiagnosed blood pressure problem, or if you do know but aren’t doing all you can to control it.

Bottom line. Give it some thought. If it is a silent killer and you don’t want to die unexpectedly, maybe you ought to learn more. Test your high blood pressure IQ and then plan on getting a checkup. Living life to the fullest sometimes means you have to check the oil, or some analogy along those lines.