Published 2:00 p.m. UTC May 20, 2018
May is National Hypertension Awareness Month. Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, happens when the pressure to pump blood through the arteries is higher than it should be. This condition causes serious effects to the health.
Michelle Kowal, a nurse at the Rahway Health Department, runs blood pressure clinics in Scotch Plains and Rahway.
Kowal said the current blood pressure guidelines are:
- Normal: systolic less than 120mmHg; diastolic less than 80mmHg.
- At risk: systolic 120 to 139mmHg; diastolic 80 to 89mmHg.
- High: systolic 140mmHg or higher; diastolic: 90mmHg or higher.
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"It is so important for people to know their numbers." Kowal said. "I would use those guidelines to recommend seeing a MD."
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 75 million Americans, or one in three adults, have hypertension. Blood pressure screenings are a good way to discover if one has the disease. Hypertension is called the "silent killer," because many people don't know they have it, and the effects of the disease in the beginning are subtle. The CDC estimates that one in five people who have hypertension don't know they have it.
There are medications to take to lower blood pressure. However, according to Donnie DeMary, owner of D3 Fitness Integrated Wellness, a gym in Plainfield, sufferers still need to make lifestyle changes to mitigate the effects of the disease. DeMary is an ex-marine who has 20 years in the wellness and health industry as a personal trainer and managing gyms.
"The overall treatment plan includes significant changes in eating habits, developing a regular exercise routine, and identifying the source of stress triggers," DeMary said.
The disease has so few side effects in the beginning that some people don't take it seriously. The CDC estimates that the cost of hypertension including lost wages, medications and hospitalizations is $48.6 billion. The effects of the diseases on individuals includes strokes, heart attacks, kidney failure and death.
"People have to understand the severity of hypertension and the negative effects on health," DeMary said.
When working with hypertensive clients, he also loops in their doctors to make sure the treatment plan is cohesive. He recommends three things people do to be successful in managing their hypertension.
The first thing that needs to be addressed is the diet. Hypertension sufferers should eat a nutritious diet that is low in sodium and limited in saturated fats. Instead of salt, people can flavor their food with natural sources such as garlic and herbs.
The second thing they must do is structured exercises for 30 minutes per day. This includes taking a class, lifting weights, riding a bike or walking on a treadmill.
The third thing people must do is to manage stress in their lives in a healthy way.
"I work with clients to help them implement a strategy to deal with stress," he said. "First they have to identify the source of stress, and then come up with healthy strategies to deal with it. For example, taking a walk at lunchtime or meditation. We don't want to turn to alcohol or smoking."
Outside stress can have a profound effect on hypertension, and many people don't address it. DeMary said that stress management is an important tool in managing this disease.
"Neglecting hypertension can kill, and people have to understand that. Unfortunately, people don't take warning signs seriously,” he said. "They decide to do something when they get a wake-up call that drastically effects their health. Hypertension is curable, not like a bad heart or a stroke."
Kowal recommends people go to their township website or local cable station to learn about blood pressure screenings in their town. They can also go to the CDC website, www.CDC.gov, for more information about hypertension.
Candace Waller is the author of the novel "What Goes Around Comes Around." Visit
bit.ly/What_Goes_Around_Comes_Around and http://www.candacewaller.com.
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