Summer is fast approaching and with it, the season of county fairs and village festivals. One of the services Noyes Hospital offers to the community is free blood pressure screenings at some of these events.

Summer is fast approaching and with it, the season of county fairs and village festivals. One of the services Noyes Hospital offers to the community is free blood pressure screenings at some of these events. I  have the pleasure of being one of the ones to pump up the cuff and give people their blood pressure reading. Over the years I have heard a list of excuses a mile long for not getting a blood pressure taken. By far the most common one is “I don’t want to know.” The scariest one I ever heard was, “My doctor’s is high and he doesn’t care, so why should I?” Some people think they are funny: “Mine is so high it’ll blow up your machine!”  I’ll never forget the man who, when I told him his reading was quite high, got angry with me and stalked off into the crowd. Go figure.


High blood pressure, or hypertension, is commonly referred to as the Silent Killer. Someone can have dangerously high blood pressure and never have a clue because sometimes there are no symptoms at all. The first inkling that something might be wrong with a person who has undiagnosed hypertension is a massive stroke. It can be that dramatic and that life-threatening.


So why would someone not want to know? Is it fear? Could it be that a person is already dealing with health issues and they can’t stand the thought of coping with another? Is it the ostrich-with-the-head-in-the-sand phenomenon? I truly don’t have an answer.


But here’s what I do know: hypertension is treatable and controllable, but first you have to know if it’s high. Once you are armed with knowledge, here are the things that anyone can do to manage high blood pressure:


Get active! Slowly and with your health care provider’s OK if you’ve been sedentary for quite some time. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week.


If you are overweight, consider that maybe this is the time to do something about it. I think most people know how (eat less, exercise more), it’s just a matter of doing it. If you need some guidance in this area, check with your HCP.


Cut alcohol consumption. According to the American Heart Association/Stroke Association, heavy and regular use of alcohol can increase blood pressure dramatically.


Cut salt intake to 1500 mg/day. That is less than 1 teaspoon,  the sodium contained in one large fast food burger. Check labels religiously for sodium amounts per serving. Most processed and prepared foods are high in salt.


For many people, those steps can bring about a significant lowering of their blood pressure. If you do all that and your blood pressure is still high, medication may be in order. That is conversation you will need to have with your health care provider.


If you know you have hypertension, consider yourself lucky. You can do something about it. The sooner, the better.


See you at the fair!


 


Pam Maxson is a health educator at Noyes Hospital in Dansville. If you have questions or suggestions for future articles, she can be reached at pmaxson@noyes-hospital.org or 335-4327.