February is the month that brings hearts to mind – all sort of hearts – red construction paper with white paper lace, heart shaped candy boxes, and our real heart that beats within our bodies every second of every day.
February is also Heart Month for the American Heart Association, and they have a great website devoted to helping you care for your heart – please check it out.
One of the ways we care for our heart is by avoiding hypertension – high blood pressure. It is called the silent killer because many do not even know they have it There are usually no symptoms. So, what is all the hype about blood pressure and why is it so important to our bodies? Why do we need to monitor it and keep it within a healthy range?
Blood pressure readings measure two things: the force that pushes on the walls of your blood vessels (as they carry blood and oxygen to your organs) (top number) and the force when you heart is resting between beats (bottom number). When either of these numbers is too high, it indicates that too much pressure is being applied to your vessels that may lead to weak spots or scars over time which may lead to increased plaque buildup and raise your risk of blood clots. It is similar to putting too much air in your bicycle or car tires – they may pop at a certain point.
High blood pressure is the single biggest risk for heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular problems. If not treated, this may lead to heart attack, congestive heart failure, atherosclerosis, stroke, kidney damage, vision loss, peripheral artery disease, and more.
The good news is that you can take steps NOW to keep your blood pressure in a healthy range. Have it checked regularly by your health care provider and adopt or restart a healthy lifestyle by eating a better diet, get moving physically, stop smoking, and lose weight if needed.
Hang in there – this weather surely cannot last forever!
Jayne Dwyer-Reff, RN,
CLHS School Nurse