May Is National High Blood Pressure Awareness Month

Connie K. Ho for
May is the month to raise awareness on multiple issues. There´s Healthy Vision Month, as promoted by the National Eye Institute. Now there´s the National High Blood Pressure Education Month and Stroke Awareness Month, promoted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
According to the HHS, one in three U.S. adults has high blood pressure (otherwise known as hypertension). Hypertension is called “the silent killer” because it doesn´t have any obvious symptoms but can cause damage to the brain, heart, and kidneys. Furthermore, many Americans don´t have hypertension correctly controlled. African Americans, in particular, are more at risk for developing hypertension and having it diagnosed at a younger age.
Similar to the consequences of hypertension, strokes can lead to serious complications and it´s touted as the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S.  The HHS reports that over 795,000 Americans have a stroke each year and over 130,000 people in the U.S. die each year from having a stroke. A stroke happens when there is a blockage that keeps blood from funneling to the brain or when a blood vessel in or around the brain ruptures. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), strokes can lead to a multitude of complications, including depression, difficulty controlling or expressing emotions, numbness, paralysis, problems with thinking, as well as pain in the hands and feet. The CDC also reports that demographic factors like age, ethnicity, family history, and sex can affect a person´s risk for having a stroke.
With such shocking statistics, the HHS and the CDC have teamed up for a new project called the Million Hearts Initiative that aims to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. Million Hearts hopes to promote the importance of reducing blood pressure by working with individuals, employers, insurers, health professionals, and health systems on highlighting the connection between good blood pressure and good health. They also publicize the need for regular self-monitoring of blood pressure as well as controlling blood pressure with diet and exercise.
Apart from the Million Heart initiative, the CDC provides a few tips for people to help lower risk for having a stroke. The organization advocates maintaining a healthy diet, limiting alcohol intake, and exercising regularly. They also believe it´s important to prevent or control diabetes.
“Many people don´t know that heart attacks and strokes are preventable. Just because your father, your mother, or your brother suffered a heart attack or a stroke, doesn´t mean that you will, too. Your DNA is not your destiny,” wrote Dr. Janet Wright, executive director of the Million Hearts initiative, in a guest post on the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) blog. “Right now–National High Blood Pressure Education Month–is the perfect time to learn more about your own blood pressure and how controlling it protects your heart.”
The CDC also addresses signs of what a stroke might feel like to people; this includes trouble seeing in one eye, having an intense headache with no known cause, as well as having trouble speaking or walking.
“On behalf of all the Million Hearts public and private partners, I encourage you to talk with your doctor, nurse, pharmacist, or community health worker about how else you can keep your blood pressure in the normal range,” concluded Wright in her post on the AARP blog.

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