High blood pressure is risk factor for strokesThe American Heart Association (AHA) and the North Dakota Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program have teamed up to help build awareness about stroke and high blood pressure (HBP) with May’s American Stroke and High Blood Pressure Month.
By: Brian Willhide, The Jamestown Sun
The American Heart Association (AHA) and the North Dakota Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program have teamed up to help build awareness about stroke and high blood pressure (HBP) with May’s American Stroke and High Blood Pressure Month.
Stroke is the No. 4 cause of death in the United States and HBP can lead to the nation’s No. 1 cause of death, heart disease.
“High blood pressure is the single biggest risk factor for stroke,” said Dr. Derek Brickner, who practices family medicine at Medcenter One of Jamestown. “Studies show that lowering blood pressure even by a few points can reduce stroke risk significantly.”
Promoting awareness during this month is very important for adults everywhere, according to Jenna Bredahl, registered nurse and quality manager with Jamestown Regional Medical Center.
“Stroke is a devastating thing that this month will hopefully help promote awareness and encourage people to visit with their doctor more closely to monitor,” she said.
High blood pressure
HBP, also known as hypertension, is one of the leading causes of stroke.
A stroke is considered the rapid loss of brain function(s) due to disturbance in the blood supply to the brain. Once the affected area of a brain cannot function, it can result in the inability to do one or all of the following: move limbs on one side of the body, understand or formulate speech or see one side of a visual field.
According to the AHA, one in three U.S. adults (72 million total) has high blood pressure, making it the biggest risk factor for stroke. Only about half of them have it under control.
While statistics are slightly better in North Dakota, data from the North Dakota Department of Health shows more than one in four state residents have been diagnosed with HBP.
What is HBP exactly?
HBP means the pressure, or force of blood pushing against the blood vessels, in the arteries is elevated. This is written as two numbers such as 120/80 mm Hg — which is the high end of what is considered “normal blood pressure.”
The top number refers to the pressure when the heart beats and is considered high when it stays more than 140 over time. The bottom number refers to the pressure when the heart rests between beats and is considered high when it stays more than 90 over time.
“Normal blood pressure should be anywhere below 120/80 mm Hg and if it’s not, it’s important for people to make sure their doctor is fully aware of that,” Bredahl said.
Considered a silent killer because there is no known cause of HBP, it usually cannot be cured but is considered to be something that can be controlled.
“It’s all about being aware of your own personal risk factors, working with your doctor on those and then taking the proper preventative measures,” Bredahl said.
In North Dakota in 2009, 2.9 percent of residents had a history of stroke, which is not only a top five national cause of death but a leading cause of disability, according to the AHA and North Dakota Department of Health.
While strokes typically start suddenly over a period of merely seconds to a few minutes, there are warning signs to be aware of, which experts say can help with responding quickly to the situation.
These warning signs include sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg; sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; sudden trouble walking, dizziness loss of balance or coordination; and sudden, severe headache with no known cause.
“As soon as you get any of those symptoms, it’s extremely important you call 911,” Bredahl said. “Like we always say, ‘Time is brain,’ meaning the longer you wait without treating the stroke, the more brain function you are losing.”
While strokes can affect anyone at any age or gender, statistics provided by the AHA show that more than 100,000 U.S. women under age 65 will have strokes this year.
Beyond HBP and high cholesterol, some of the biggest risk factors for women include migraines, diabetes, lupus, blood clotting disorders and those who are taking birth control pills and/or hormone replacement therapy. If proper measures are taken, though, many who suffer strokes can survive. In fact about 7 million people who have suffered strokes in the U.S. are still alive today.
Brickner recommended those with elevated blood pressure levels seek advice from their doctors about preventative measures and, if dealing with “significantly high blood pressure,” proper medications to treat it.
Sun reporter Brian Willhide can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org