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The HealthCare Ministries of Mathews United Methodist Church

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High Blood Pressure


What is high blood pressure?

Many people ask, “What should my blood pressure be?”  It is very important to know the numbers.  There are no symptoms of high blood pressure also know as “the silent killer.”  When symptoms such as headaches, numbness in extremities, dizziness begin to occur, an individual has probably had sustained high blood pressure for some time.  Blood pressure is the measurement of the blood flow in the arteries in response to the pumping of the heart.  The systolic or first number you hear referenced indicates the force of the heart during the contraction when the arteries are distributing blood throughout the body.  The diastolic or the second number you hear mentioned indicates the heart’s pressure at rest in between contractions.  Both numbers are important when considering whether or not your blood pressure is considered high.

A “normal” blood pressure is less than 115/75. This is the "new" standard set by The American Heart Association (it formally was 120/80).The American Heart Association guidelines state that a blood pressure that stays between 115 – 139 systolic and 75 – 89 diastolic is considered prehypertension.  Anything above these levels (140/90mm Hg and above) is considered high or hypertension.  Since the blood pressure normally fluctuates from minute to minute, a doctor will usually want several readings over a certain amount of time prior to deciding whether or not you have high blood pressure. 

Ann Landis, RN, BSN, Healthcare Ministries Coordinator and Congregational Nurse at Mathews United Methodist Church of Greenwood, South Carolina, USA.  Photo Image (c) 2004.  Copyrighted by Mathews United Methodist Church.

Ann Landis, RN, BSN; Congregational Nurse checks the blood pressure of a church member during a recent blood-pressure screening.


What about low blood pressure?

In general, a blood pressure is normal if it is less than 115/75mm Hg.  Most physicians don’t become concerned about a low blood pressure unless symptoms such as dizziness, fatigue, and/or fainting occur.  Low blood pressure can be caused by such things as dehydration and blood loss.  An extremely low reading should be evaluated by your doctor. 


Why be concerned about blood pressure?

High blood pressure causes the heart to work harder to maintain normal bodily functions.  The arteries are narrowed and the heart has to pump harder to circulate the blood.  High blood pressure increases the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases including heart disease and stroke.  Kidney failure is another disease that can develop from untreated hypertension. Risk factors for having high blood pressure include obesity, heavy drinking, smoking, high cholesterol, and use of birth control pills.  African-Americans, especially women are particularly susceptible to developing high blood pressure.  Persons of any age, even children, can have high blood pressure, though it is more common among the middle-aged and elderly.  The American Heart Association recommends children have their blood pressure checked annually.  Early diagnosis and treatment of hypertension can help prevent chronic diseases that are much more difficult and costly to treat.

The only way to know if your blood pressure is not “normal” is to have it checked!  Have it checked regularly.  It doesn’t take long and is painless.  There are many places in which you can get a blood pressure check including your physician’s office, nurse’s office, hospital clinic, company clinic, or health fair.  Many pharmacies also have blood pressure machines.  According to a local pharmacist, the blood pressure monitors in the stores are calibrated regularly to ensure accuracy.  However, this is a screening tool…let your physician know how you are checking your blood pressure.  He/she may recommend a home monitor or regular visits with a nurse to get high blood pressure regulated.  The cuff size is important, too.  The monitors found in the area pharmacies are not necessarily going to be appropriately sized for everyone.  Again, make your physician aware of how you are monitoring your blood pressure outside of his/her office.  


I have high blood pressure…what now?

Statistics say that over 50 million Americans have high blood pressure and more than half are women.  Only a small percentage of these are treated adequately.  There is no cure for high blood pressure.  But, there are ways to help keep it under control and “normalized.”  If you are overweight, reduce your weight.  Use less salt in your diet.  Beware of hidden sodium in processed foods and foods purchased in restaurants.  Ask for the nutritional guidelines when dining out…most restaurants have these available upon request.  Exercise regularly; be active.  If your physician has prescribed medication for treating your high blood pressure, take it as ordered every day.  This is more than likely a medication that you will need the rest of your life. Communicate with your health care team and work together to get your blood pressure under control.  Think about the consequences of not controlling your blood pressure.  The American Heart Association reminds us, “Don’t take life-or-death chances with a disease you can control.”


For more information, visit www.americanheart.org.


Blood pressure screenings available every third Sunday of each month at Mathews United Methodist Church from 9:30am – 10:30am in the nurse’s office.

| Back To The HealthCare Ministries Homepage | The Ministry of Caring | Health Fair |

| Blood Pressure: The Silent Killer | Focus on Cholesterol | About Diabetes |

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Last revised on 25 October 2008