It’s known as the silent killer. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is the leading cause of heart disease and stroke, and there usually are no signs or symptoms.
American Heart Association data indicates that only 1 in 4 people with high blood pressure nationwide have it under control and an estimated 700,000 Marylanders have uncontrolled hypertension. The condition is linked to more than a half million deaths in the United States each year, and in the past 20 years, more people have been diagnosed with high blood pressure than ever before.
“High blood pressure is a serious health concern,” says William Ashley, M.D., a cerebrovascular neurosurgeon and stroke specialist at the Sandra and Malcolm Berman Brain & Spine Institute at Sinai Hospital and president of the Baltimore and Greater Maryland American Heart Association Board of Directors. “Having high blood pressure puts people at a greater risk of heart attack, heart disease, or stroke and it can also lead to vision problems, damage to your kidneys, and sexual dysfunction in both men and women.”
May 17 marks World Hypertension Day, a day dedicated to highlighting the importance of monitoring blood pressure and bringing global awareness to the 1 billion people living with high blood pressure worldwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It’s easy to monitor blood pressure, even when you’re not headed to a checkup or specialist visit. As part of its #StrongerHearts partnership with the American Heart Association, LifeBridge Health installed Higi Smart Health Stations at LifeBridge Health & Fitness, the Owings Mills Jewish Community Center and the Park Heights Jewish Community Center. Similar machines are located at area grocery and drug stores. At the stations, users can check their blood pressure, weight, pulse and BMI, while connecting to an online community engagement platform to track and share biometric and lifestyle data, with access to tracking applications available on smartphones and online.
In addition, reasonably priced and easy-to-use home monitoring kits are widely available, enabling individuals to monitor their blood pressure regularly. During the 2022 session, the Maryland General Assembly unanimously supported legislation that enables Medicaid recipients with uncontrolled hypertension to receive an in-home blood pressure monitoring device at no cost. Some commercial insurances provide coverage for the devices as well.
Regular monitoring and checkups with your primary care physician are recommended to keep high blood pressure under control. Maintaining a healthy weight, with a body mass index between 18.5 and 24.9, committing to regular exercise of more than 90 minutes per week, and eating a healthy, low-fat diet with a limited salt intake also contribute to keeping hypertension under control.
“Sometimes you can maintain a healthy lifestyle and still be living with hypertension. That’s why it’s called the silent killer,” Dr. Ashley adds. “Using home monitoring devices and Higi kiosks can help you know your numbers and be alerted if your blood pressure is elevated. High blood pressure can indicate problems with arteries which can cause a variety of serious and potentially fatal health issues like heart attack and stroke.”
To learn more about the #StrongerHeart initiative, visit: https://www.lifebridgehealth.org/StrongerHearts/StrongerHeartsMD.aspx
Editor’s note: This guest post was provided by LifeBridge Health, a #StrongerHearts Life is Why sponsor.
Wayne, a lifelong Marylander, is the communications director for the American Heart Association serving Baltimore and Greater Maryland. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.