Blood pressure is often referred to as the “silent killer.” For about 75 million Americans-1 out of every 3-it is a daily fact of life (CDC.gov).
I recently heard a story of an older lady who was visiting out of town relatives, and was observed by a family member who told her, “Hey, you look like you’re having a stroke (her mouth was drooping on one side). Now you be sure to call your doctor when you get home!”
Since this isn’t an article about stroke protocol, I won’t comment on the fact that the lady in the story wasn’t immediately taken to a nearby hospital (and given the “clot-buster” medication that will typically increase a person’s chances of preventing debilitating functional loss). Fortunately, she returned home and was hospitalized by her doctor, then learned the stroke she experienced was very mild. And more importantly, she retained all her functional abilities. She left the hospital with new blood pressure medication and I hope thankful her situation turned out the way it did.
Unfortunately, not all individuals can say their blood pressure is under control. Some don’t even know their pressure is high–approximately 20 percent of adults in the U.S. with high blood pressure don’t know they have it. And the stats get worse: Sixty-nine percent of people who have a first heart attack, 77 percent of people who have a first stroke, and 74 percent of people with chronic heart failure have high blood pressure (American Medical Group Association).
It’s important to know your numbers! If you have high blood pressure, or have a close relative with hypertension, start keeping a written record of your readings. It’s best to take your pressure at the same time each day, and it doesn’t matter the type of instrument used-buy an inexpensive wrist cuff, or an expensive upper arm cuff-just monitor your blood pressure.
Once you start taking your blood pressure, be sure to take your log book (or a copy) to your doctor. Make sure you record the date and time of each entry so your doctor will have a clear picture of the time of day the pressure was taken. It’s also a good idea to record the activity engaged in prior to taking your reading, whether watching TV, eating, jogging-again, it allows for a more accurate overall understanding of your health when discussing your numbers with your family physician.
Once you have an awareness of your blood pressure, it’s up to you to work on reducing the numbers! The upper number (Systolic) measures the pressure exerted against your arteries while your heart is at “work,” or while beating. The lower number (Diastolic) is the measure of the pressure between beats (American Heart Association). While both numbers are important to have under control, if your diastolic (bottom) pressure is 80 or above, it’s time to get serious about working on your blood pressure.
Check with your doctor, ask a nutritionist, read articles online, or just start walking!! Find out more about how you can help yourself control this serious-but controllable-condition.