By Deana M. Newman
TNCP Senior Health Correspondent
Many of us have heard the sayings “Silence is Golden” and “Ignorance is Bliss”, however, these proverbs do not hold true with chronic diseases such as hypertension or high blood pressure.
Blood pressure is the force of blood pumped from your heart into the vessels known as arteries which delivers blood throughout your body. Each time your heart beats, blood is forced along the wall of the arteries and the impact is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). This process is known as systole. When the heart rests between beats, blood pressure decreases, a process known as diastole. Normal blood pressure is a systolic pressure less than 120 mmHg and a diastolic pressure less than 80 mmHg and is expressed as 120/80 mmHg.
Hypertension is defined by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institutes (NHLBI) as a blood pressure greater than 139/89 mmHg. Individuals with a pressure between 120/80 mmHg and 139/89 mmHg are considered “pre-hypertensive” and are likely to develop hypertension in the future. Today, hypertension is a disease which is listed as a primary or contributing cause of death for more than 270,000 Americans annually. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 40 percent of the entire African-American population has high blood pressure.
The most alarming news overall…many people are unaware they have hypertension, which can lead to stroke, heart attacks, heart failure and kidney disease, because the disease is usually present without symptoms.
There are two classifications of risk factors for high blood pressure: Modifiable/Controllable and Non-modifiable/uncontrollable, below are examples of each.
Modifiable Risk Factors:
-Obesity and overweight
-High salt diets
-Heavy and regular alcohol intake
-Lack of exercise
In a recent study published in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers found that infants of mothers who smoked during pregnancy have a significantly higher blood pressure than those infants whom mothers were not exposed to tobacco smoke during pregnancy.
Non-modifiable Risk Factors:
-Immediate family history of hypertension
Regardless of your category of risk, prevention awareness of hypertension, regular medical examinations and controlling the disease once diagnosed through diet changes, exercise and taking anti-hypertensive agents as prescribed are necessary keys of survival.
If you do not have a primary care physician, please contact your local county health department for available blood pressure screening times. Free screenings are currently available at the Ingham County Health Department during regular walk-in clinic hours.
Ingham County Health Department
5303 South Cedar Street
Entrance 3, Room 206
Phone: (517) 887-4316
Deana Newman is currently a Cardiovascular Perfusionist at Sparrow Hospital and a Master’s candidate in
Health Communications at Michigan State University.