The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (AHA/ASA) wants people to check their blood pressure by May 17, World Hypertension Day, as part of their #CheckIt high blood pressure awareness campaign. May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month and American Stroke Month, and the AHA/ASA is joining other health organizations to reach 25 million blood pressure checks globally (5 million in the U.S.). Participants are encouraged to log their blood pressure check and learn about high blood pressure online.
According to the American Heart Association, high blood pressure is usually preventable with simple steps, yet it kills more people worldwide than any other condition. One in three American adults has high blood pressure, which is a reading of 140/90 millimeters of mercury or higher. Uncontrolled, it can cause heart attack, stroke, heart failure, kidney disease, vision loss and dementia. But controlling high blood pressure could reduce deaths from heart disease and stroke by 30 percent in men and 38 percent in women, according to the AHA. Taking control starts with a simple action — getting your blood pressure checked.
“Few severe health conditions are ignored as much as high blood pressure. It’s like having too much pressure in a pipe. It damages the pipe, but you often don’t see a problem until the pipe bursts or becomes clogged,” said Willie Lawrence, M.D., an interventional cardiologist for Midwest Heart & Vascular Specialists in Kansas City and an American Heart Association volunteer. “It is a symptomless disease, so the best way to combat it is to check it regularly to know if you need to start or change treatment.”
Community groups, clinics, and workplaces can hold blood pressure checks for large groups through programs like the American Heart Association’s Check. Change. Control. Participants in this free, science-based program have seen an average drop in systolic blood pressure of 7 millimeters of mercury (mmHg), and one-third improved their level of blood pressure control.
Such programs can be particularly important for those known to face higher risks. Nearly half of African-Americans have high blood pressure, dramatically increasing their chance of stroke. And blacks, along with Hispanic-Americans, are less likely to have their blood pressure under control, according to recent research.
Healthcare providers may prescribe medication in addition to lifestyle changes — like limiting salt and alcohol, getting regular physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight.“It may take a few tries to find the right medicine, or combination of medicines, to fit your needs,” Lawrence said. “It’s important that you keep an open dialogue with your provider, and use tools like connected devices, mobile apps or web-based tracking programs to help gather the data you need about your condition and share it with your doctor.”