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Stroke and high blood pressure

GLENN ELLIS | 6/11/2018, 4:50 p.m.
For years, I have written weekly on matters of health that disproportionately impact our community, in typically negative ways.
File photo Associated Press

Strategies for Well-Being

For years, I have written weekly on matters of health that disproportionately impact our community, in typically negative ways.

It’s not unusual to draw on my observations and interactions with many people during my travels from throughout the country, and in some cases around the world.

But recently, it got personal.

While attending a community health fair, where I was the guest speaker – through the prodding and arm-twisting of the members of Chi Eta Phi, a sorority of Black nurses – I acquiesced, and got my blood pressure checked. Much to my total surprised ... my pressure was at a dangerously high level.

Not me, I thought! I felt perfectly fine. But there’s a reason they call it “The Silent Killer.”

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? You’ve probably heard this question before in a philosophy or physics class.

But what does it have to do with your health? Try this: If you have high blood pressure and don’t see any symptoms, do you still have the disease? The answer is yes.

High blood pressure, a disease impacting nearly one in three adults in the United States, is called the “silent killer” because it often shows no signs or symptoms.

It turns out that any blood pressure number over 140 for a top number (the systolic number) is considered Stage One High Blood Pressure. Any bottom number (diastolic) over 90 is likewise bad news. Any top number over 160 is considered Stage Two. Stage Two is the edge of the cliff. At a reading of 160 for a top number, I was at the edge of the cliff, looking over. There is no Stage Three so I guess the next stage is what, death?

A high bottom number is worse than a high top number because the bottom number is your blood pressure at rest. So if your bottom number is high, the blood is pushing against your artery walls all the time – that’s every second of the day and night, which can cause aneurysm, the pouching out of the artery walls, leading to death.

Most people with high blood pressure will eventually need to take blood pressure medication to help lower it.

If you have high blood pressure, you need to take action to bring it down. This may not mean taking blood pressure medications right away. Your doctor or nurse may sometimes prefer that you make some healthy lifestyle changes at first. However, lifestyle changes may not lower your blood pressure enough on their own. If this is the case, then your doctor or nurse may decide that you also need to take blood pressure medicines.

Whether you need to take medications or not also depends on your overall risk of heart disease, stroke or other health problems. Other factors as well as high blood pressure increase your risk, such as if: you have high cholesterol; you smoke; you have diabetes or kidney disease; you have a family history of high blood pressure; or if you have any other medical condition that could affect the health of your heart or blood vessels.