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Controlling Blood Pressure: Watch the Numbers

Untreated high blood pressure can damage blood vessels, the heart, kidneys and other organs. (pixabay)
Untreated high blood pressure can damage blood vessels, the heart, kidneys and other organs. (pixabay)
May 24, 2018

DES MOINES, Iowa – High blood pressure poses a significant risk for stroke, but low blood pressure also causes problems – and that's why it's important to know your numbers.

The American Heart Association says most people who've had a first stroke also had high blood pressure. For Tinika Roland, new-student orientation coordinator and academic advisor with Des Moines Area Community College, hypertension runs in the family.

But when her 21-year-old son experienced dizziness and nausea that led to stroke, it was due to low blood pressure and other complications. As an African-American, she's particularly aware of the risks.

"It's been impacting African-Americans at a higher rate than any other race,” says Roland. “So that's why I think it's important for us to get the word out and pay attention to your body, know your body, know your numbers."

Two numbers represent blood pressure. The new guideline for normal blood pressure is below 120 over 80, which means numbers that stay over that average for any length of time qualify as high blood pressure.

Hypertension damages arteries throughout the body and elevates the risk for stroke. A stroke can threaten your ability to think, move and function, affect language, vision and even cause paralysis or death.

Roland says when it runs in families, earlier detection is better.

"If you go to the doctor and find out what it is, sometimes they can get ahead of it and if they can detect it, soon enough then there's medication and other ways to treat whatever the symptoms are,” says Roland.

Roland notes you can't control race or age when it comes to high blood pressure, but medication combined with more walking, reduced sodium and fewer carbohydrates help her control the numbers.

"So the lifestyle could be the exercise and the diet or it could be stress-related,” says Roland. “So we have to pay attention to the environment which we're in."

The American Heart Association says managing blood pressure is a lifelong commitment which may require those afflicted to learn how to monitor blood pressure at home.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - IA