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High Blood Pressure: What you need to know to stay healthy

May is High Blood Pressure Awareness Month
High Blood Pressure
Posted at 6:18 AM, May 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-17 09:45:22-04

May is High Blood Pressure Education Month.

According to the National Institute of Health, half of all Americans have high blood pressure, many do not even know it, and that sends people to the Emergency Room.

We caught up with Ariana Haywood, a , BSN, RN, Clinical Nurse Leader in GBMC's Emergency Department about the importance of knowing your blood pressure numbers.

"One of the things that happens when we have patients come into the ER, in triage, we'll ask them what their normal blood pressure is and a lot of people do not know that. I do highly encourage checking your blood pressure. If you do not have a device at home you can go to a Walmart or a pharmacy to check it, just so you would have an idea of what your blood pressure would be."

Having a blood pressure cuff at home is an important part of your home first aid kit. But it's also important to make sure you are taking your blood pressure the right way: avoid exercising, eating, drinking caffeine, or smoking 30 minutes before taking a reading, find a quiet space, relax for a few minutes before taking a reading, and go to the bathroom ahead of time so you don't get distracted.

"If you are at home checking your blood pressure I would recommend you are sitting in a chair, and have your legs uncrossed. Make sure you don't have any clothing on, and make sure your blood pressure cuff is on your bare skin. If you have a table nearby you can elevate your arm on the table, otherwise, you can do it at rest with both hands at your side. No talking. Check it that way," added Haywood.

A normal reading is 120 over 80. Elevated BP is between 120 and 129 over 80. 130 and above is considered hypertension.

It's important to note, throughout the day your blood pressure changes, "What are you doing? Are you resting? Are you up and doing activities? Are you anxious? Are you thinking about something that is stressing you out? Are you eating? It fluctuates with literally everything that we do."

There are signs to keep an eye out for when it comes to high, and low blood pressure, "Some of the warning signs for high blood pressure include headaches, dizziness, and blurred vision. And sometimes with low blood pressure, you can feel dizziness as well. You can feel diaphoretic, where you are sweating, and you can feel your heart racing. And then some people will not know their blood pressure is high. That's one of the big concerns with high blood pressure and making sure we are diagnosing people with high blood pressure because they may not know. They may not have any symptoms."

You may also think you are in the clear, because your blood pressure is good, and has been good, but if your parents have high blood pressure, that is a risk factor, "High blood pressure can be genetic. For instance, I don't typically have high blood pressure but both of my parents do. So even though I take care of myself, if I do everything that I can to make sure that I am controlling my blood pressure I still may develop high blood pressure in the future because my parents have it. My grandmother has it. So we do have to into consideration genetics."

As with any medical condition, the best thing you can do is pay attention to what your body is telling you. Talk to your doctor and, if medication is prescribed, take it when you are supposed to, "If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure make sure you are taking your medication, as prescribed. Make sure you are asking your doctor what the name of the medication is, why you are taking it, the dosage. Make a list of your medications so that you have those ready so that if you do have to go to the doctors or the hospital."

Eating healthier. Getting 30 minutes of exercise a day can lower your risk. Hypertension can lead to heart disease and stroke, two leading causes of death for Americans.