Almost one in five young adults in the United States has high blood pressure, according to a new study published May 25. But half of those adults don’t know they have it.

High blood pressure is often symptomless, but diagnosis and treatment are crucial because, if left untreated, it can lead to heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.

The study involved data from 2008 from 14,000 men and women ages 24 to 32, and found that of those people, 19 percent had high blood pressure, or a reading of 140/90 millimeters of mercury of higher. Researchers did find that men were more likely than women to have high blood pressure – 27 percent of men had hypertension compared to 11 percent of women.

The study was published in the journal Epidemiology.

Another widely cited and reputable study by US-based National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey reported a 4 percent rate of hypertension for a similar age group around the same time period, between 2007 and 2008.

"Our respective findings may differ, but the message is clear," said Dr. Kathleen Mullan Harris, study researcher and interim director of the Carolina Population Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in a statement. "Young adults and the medical professionals they visit shouldn't assume they're not old enough to have high blood pressure."

Be sure to get your blood pressure screened by a doctor. To keep your blood pressure from getting too high, the researchers recommend eating a balanced and healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables. Reduce your intake of sodium to less than 2,300 milligrams a day. Also, cut back on alcohol to two drinks or less for men a day and one drink or less for women. Also, be sure to get regular exercise—at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per week.

Access the study’s abstract: