By Ria Brownlow, RN
Our UU Faith Community is remarkably well-educated about health issues, and our people are health-conscious in general. Even so, there are some topics that bear re-visiting from time to time, because of their importance. One of these is the topic of blood pressure.
High blood pressure has been called “The Silent Killer”, but, after caring for stroke patients, I have come to think of it as “The Silent Disabler”. Somehow, though, as scary as it was to see what elevated blood pressure could do to people, I didn’t think I needed to consider it for myself. I’ve never been the profile for high blood pressure, and no one in my family had ever had that problem.
In 2009, I helped out at a women’s health fair. One of the nurses there wanted to take my blood pressure, and I politely assented. It was quite the surprise when she told me I needed to see my doctor because my blood pressure was elevated. This was confirmed in an office visit, and I’ve been on blood pressure medication ever since. I also can no longer eat the salty treats I had always seen as harmless, ( For people with high blood pressure, the so-called DASH diet is recommended.), and I need to keep track of my blood pressure between office visits.
I ask myself: how did this happen to me? I’ve maintained a reasonable weight, I eat a good diet, and I exercise. What I’ve been told is that sometimes there is no apparent reason for the development of high blood pressure. My nurse practitioner friend tells me that she has observed many of her patients having rising blood pressures as they age. Yes, I did smoke, and did quit 38 years ago. Certainly, though, damage could have been done during that time. I also had sleep apnea for an unknown length of time. This, too, could have damaged the blood vessels. But this is all just conjecture; I’ll never really know the cause. The important thing is that, now, I do know that I have this issue, and my blood pressure is being monitored and managed.
The parameters for healthy blood pressures have changed, people! The higher number (systolic) now has to be no higher than 120, and the lower number (diastolic) no higher than 80. That’s the basic idea. Warning: if anyone has an irregular heartbeat, and many of us do, the electronic devices for taking blood pressure are not reliable. That includes the wrist device.
It’s so easy to take my blood pressure at the grocery store. But, with my irregular heartbeat, the reading cannot be trusted. The cuff and stethoscope method is the gold standard.
One or two Sundays a month, you have the opportunity to get your blood pressure taken at Coffee Hour at UU. On the FCN table, we also have pocket cards for tracking your numbers. We are very happy to take blood pressures, don’t feel like you are imposing! That’s what we’re there for. This is important.
Blessings from your Faith Community Nursing Team.