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Battling the“Silent Killer”

By Tom Lowrey, Senior Services Education Assistant.

Heart disease. Stroke. Congestive heart failure. Kidney disease. Blindness.

Do you want to lower your risk of having these things happen to you? “Then it’s time to have your blood pressure checked,” says Billie Ritter, Senior Services’ new Health Education Coordinator. “Blood pressure is tricky; it’s known as the ‘silent killer.’ You can be hypertensive for years and never know it, because you don’t have any symptoms.”

Famed cardiologist Dr. Mehmet Oz agrees. “While you’re going about your day, high blood pressure could be damaging your arteries, your heart and other organs.”

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute defines blood pressure as the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps out blood. If this pressure rises and stays high over time, it’s called high blood pressure, or hypertension.

Normal blood pressure range is 90-120 over 60-80. The first number is the systolic pressure, the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats. The second number is the diastolic pressure, which occurs when your heart is resting between beats. Prehypertension (meaning you’re likely to end up with high blood pressure unless you take steps to prevent it) is characterized by pressures of 120-139 over 80-89. Numbers higher than those indicate high blood pressure.

Over 70 million Americans (1 in 3 adults) have high blood pressure. As most of us know, blood pressure tends to rise with age.  In the USA, over half of the over-60 population has hypertension! But age isn’t the only factor. You’re more likely to have high blood pressure…

  • If your family history includes it
  • If you are African American
  • If you’re overweight
  • If you eat too much sodium or drink too much alcohol
  • If you smoke
  • If you’re sedentary
  • If you don’t get enough potassium
  • If you lead a very stressful life

“We can tackle these risks,” says Billie Ritter, “by stopping smoking, eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and getting regular physical activity.” Dr. Oz says that “the good news is that a blood pressure test is quick and painless and can be done at most any doctor’s office, hospital, or clinic. You can even monitor it at home.”

More good news—you can have your blood pressure checked monthly, at no cost, at your nearest Midland County Activity Center! Call 989-633-3700 for the latest schedule.

So take matters into your own hands. Be proactive.  Make positive changes to your lifestyle, and talk to your healthcare professional about a good plan for you.