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6 things you didn't know about women and high blood pressure

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – May 13, 2013 --  National Women’s Health Week, celebrated from May 12 – 18, brings together communities, health organizations and other groups to raise awareness for women’s health topics. Most people recognize conditions such as breast cancer and cervical cancer as threats to women’s health, but did you know that the No. 1 cause of death for all adults in the United States is actually heart disease? If not, you may be surprised to learn that one of the contributing factors in heart disease is high blood pressure, a preventable and treatable condition that affects 77.9 million Americans, according to the American Heart Association.   

“The statistics are shocking," said Barbara (Babs) Brown, DNP at Saint Thomas Heart. "Did you know 1 in 3 adults suffer from high blood pressure? Or that only half of those with high blood pressure have their condition under control? This is a public health crisis, but we don’t talk about it nearly as much as other conditions and diseases." 

To raise awareness for the disease, Brown shared six more surprising facts about high blood pressure. She noted: 

  • One in 5 Americans with high blood pressure doesn’t know that he/she has it. 
  • The only way to identify high blood pressure is through regular check-ups. When blood pressure is dangerously high, symptoms such as headaches and chest pain may emerge, but otherwise high blood pressure is a silent epidemic.  
  • Smoking and sodium intake are two of the top risk factors. Others include being overweight or obese, a lack of physical activity, stress, and excessive alcohol consumption. 
  • Genetics are a risk factor. In the United States, African Americans are twice as likely as whites to have high blood pressure. The gap narrows around age 44, although black women aged 65 and older have the highest incidence of high blood pressure. 
  • Some drugs may increase the risk for high blood pressure. These drugs include over-the-counter medications that contain pseudoephedrine and ephedrine, such as allergy and cold medicines and appetite suppressants. 
  • The recommended blood pressure for most persons is below 140/90. For every 20 millimeter increase in systolic blood pressure (the top number) or 10 millimeter increase in diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number), the risk for a cardiovascular event such as heart attack or stroke doubles

For Americans with high blood pressure, the good news is that, once identified, it can be controlled with lifestyle changes and medication. Controlling this condition protects the heart, brain, kidneys and other important organs from damage, so Brown strongly recommends that all adults have their blood pressure checked regularly. 

“Make an appointment with your provider, and tell your friends and family to, as well. Having regular check-ups can save your heart and save your life,” she said.  

As the cause sponsor for the American Heart Association Go Red for Women campaign in Davidson, Williamson, Sumner and Rutherford counties, Saint Thomas Heart is committed to decreasing the number of Middle Tennessee women affected by heart disease. For more information, visit www.nashvillegoesred.org

For more information about Saint Thomas Heart, please visit www.saintthomasheart.com/.   

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