It’s often called the silent killer. Why, do you ask? Because it has no warning signs or symptoms. Uncontrolled high blood pressure is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke, according to the Centers for Disease Control. 75 million people or about one in every three US adults have high blood pressure. More alarming is only about half (54 percent) of these people have their high blood pressure under control.
High blood pressure is a dangerous condition yet so very common. Having high blood pressure means the pressure of the blood in your blood vessels is higher than it should be. You can take steps to control your blood pressure and lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. The only one way to know whether you have high blood pressure is to have a doctor or other health professional measure it. Measuring your blood pressure is quick and painless and almost always the first information gathered when you arrive for a doctor’s visit.
Heart attacks have several major warning signs and symptoms:
Chest pain or discomfort.
Upper body pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or upper stomach.
Shortness of breath.
Nausea, lightheadedness, or cold sweats.
I have heard women say their bra strap felt really tight around them
Risks of Heart disease:
Overweight and obesity
Excessive alcohol use
People with high blood pressure are four times more likely to die from stroke and three times more likely to die from heart disease compared with those who have normal blood pressure. Again high blood pressure often shows no symptoms, which is why monitoring blood pressure is so important especially for aging adults as medications can often interfere with blood pressure.
The fifth leading cause of death in the United States is a stroke and is a major cause of serious disability for adults. About 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke each year.
Signs of Stroke:
Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or difficulty understanding speech
Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or lack of coordination
Sudden severe headache with no known cause
Call 9-1-1 right away if you or someone else has any of these symptoms.
If you think someone may be having a stroke, act F.A.S.T. and do the following simple test:
F—Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
A—Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S—Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is the speech slurred or strange?
T—Time: If you see any of these signs, call 9-1-1 right away.
Note the time when any symptoms first appear. This information helps health care providers determine the best treatment for each person. Do not drive to the hospital or let someone else drive you. Call an ambulance so that medical personnel can begin life-saving treatment on the way to the emergency room.
I encourage individuals to know their blood pressure and, if it is high, to make control their goal. You can get screened at a doctor’s office or check your blood pressure at home with a blood pressure monitor. Many public pharmacies like CVS or Walgreens have blood pressure machines with in steps of their Pharm departments you can sit down and take your own.
Following are ways to help take control:
•Ask your doctor what your blood pressure should be. Talk with a doctor about how you can reach your goals.
•Take blood pressure medicine as directed. Set a timer to remember to take your medicine at the same time each day.
• Quit smoking. Find tips on quitting at the CDC’s Smoking and Tobacco website or ask your medical professional.
•Reduce sodium intake. Most people consume too much sodium, (salt) which could raise blood pressure. Many processed foods contain high levels of sodium. Begin reading food labels if you don’t already and try to opt for fresh fruits and vegetables and less prep packaged foods.
Controlling blood pressure is one key to heart health for older adults. “High blood pressure remains an epidemic in the United States, but it can be prevented,” said Lawrence Appel, M.D., lead author of an American Heart Association scientific statement, published in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association. “By improving their diet, people can reduce their blood pressure and put a major dent in their risk of stroke, coronary heart disease and heart failure,” said Appel, a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.
The statement also recommends combining an overall healthy diet with weight loss, eating lots of fruits and vegetables, limiting alcohol consumption, lowering salt intake and increasing potassium intake.
Here’s hoping you have many more years of healthy heart living!
Julie Ann Soukoulis is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park, mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her own two parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, www.homeinstead.com/sonoma to educate and encourage seniors & caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’d love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.