Monitor Your Blood Pressure for Heart Health Month

In support of the American Heart Association’s Heart Health and Go Red Month.

February is National Heart Health Awareness month. One of the simplest ways to monitor your heart health is by getting a regular blood pressure check.  Most people with high blood pressure have no symptoms at all.  There are no specific warning signs.  Some people may feel more tired than usual, get hot or sweaty easier, have difficulty sleeping or even feel more emotional.  These things are part of every day life and most folks just ignore the symptoms.  The only way to find out if you have high blood pressure or hypertension is by regular monitoring.

Blood pressure is the force exerted on the walls of your blood vessels or arteries as blood flows through them.  Your heart is a pump.  When it contracts or beats, it sends a surge of blood through the blood vessels and pressure increases.  This is the top number in a blood pressure reading or the systolic number.  When your heart relaxes between beats the blood pressure decreases.  This is the bottom number or diastolic pressure.

Normal blood pressure falls within a range – it’s not one set of numbers.  An adult should have a reading less than 140/90.  If you have another disease such as diabetes, kidney problems, or heart disease your doctor may want it no higher that 130/85.  I f your blood pressure stays above this threshold you have hypertension.

Hypertension adds to the workload of the heart and arteries.  The heart must pump with more force, and the arteries must carry blood that is moving under greater pressure.  If high blood pressure continues untreated for a long time the heart and arteries may not function as well as they should and other body organs may be affected.  There is greater chance of damage to the lungs and kidneys in particular. There is increased risk of stroke, heart failure, heart attacks, and kidney failure.

Since this month is heart month, I would like to encourage everyone to take some time and do a daily check of your blood pressure.  Try to take it at the same time every day as well as the same arm.  Make sure you are sitting down in approximately the same position.  Keep a record of the readings.  If you see that your blood pressure consistently reads over 140/90 for a week, take this information to your doctor for a discussion.

Keep in mind that your blood pressure changes constantly.  Blood pressure fluctuates from day to day and minute to minute according to your body’s needs.  If you exercise or are angry and check your blood pressure, it will be higher.  If you are relaxing or check it when you first wake up, it will be lower.  Note by your readings what your activity was at the time for the doctor.

The Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection and Treatment of High Blood Pressure has a general guideline.  Blood pressure also depends on our age, morbidity and several other factors.  CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN TO DETERMINE YOUR NORMAL BLOOD PRESSURE.  Normal blood pressure is normally classified as 120/80.  Pre-Hypertension is defined as 120-139 systolic and 80-89 diastolic. Stage 1 Hypertension is defined as 140-159 systolic and 90-99 diastolic.  Stage 2 Hypertension is defined as greater than 160 systolic and greater than 100 diastolic.

If you have high blood pressure, you can do a lot to reduce it.  Work with your doctor to determine the best treatment for you.  It may include a low fat or low salt diet, and changes to your lifestyle such as quitting smoking, losing weight, and getting more exercise.  Reducing your alcohol intake may be recommended.  Many medicines can also reduce and control high blood pressure. Your doctor will decide whether you need medicine in addition to dietary and lifestyle changes.

High blood pressure is a lifelong disease.  It can be controlled but not cured.  Once you begin to manage it and start a treatment program, maintaining a lower blood pressure is easier.  By controlling your high blood pressure, you’ll lower your risk of diseases like stroke, heart attack and kidney disease.

Lou Ann Enis, Occupational Health Supervisor and Registered Nurse

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