High blood pressure, known clinically as hypertension, is often referred to as "a silent killer" since most of those affected do not experience any symptoms.
About 1 of 3 U.S. adults—or about 70 million people—have high blood pressure. Only about half of these people have their high blood pressure under control. This common condition increases the risk for heart disease and stroke, two of the leading causes of death for Americans. High blood pressure can have deadly health consequences if left untreated.
It is important to have your blood pressure checked regularly by your primary care physician. Ask your doctor for a blood pressure reading at least every two years starting at age 18. If you're age 40 or older, or you're age 18-39 with a high risk of high blood pressure, ask your doctor for a blood pressure reading every year.
Read success stories below from two associates at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center who learned that they had high blood pressure and took appropriate steps to get it under control.
Sandy Swecker had just started working in the Operating Room as unit secretary when she went to the annual health fair, sponsored by the Associate Wellness Committee, with her coworker Lois. While attending the event, Lois encouraged Sandy to get her blood pressure checked. “I thought the machine was broken the reading was so high,” Sandy says. “I immediately got it checked by someone else at the fair, but they had the same reading.”
Sandy’s blood pressure was at dangerously high levels and she was encouraged to go immediately to the Emergency Room. Afraid that she might have a stroke at any time, Sandy followed up with her primary care doctor.
“I would have never known my blood pressure was high if I hadn’t gotten it checked,” Sandy recalls. “There were no symptoms. I’m in perfect health except for this one issue.”
At her appointment, Sandy’s doctor was also surprised at the high reading. He immediately put her on blood pressure medication, which has drastically lowered and steadied her blood pressure. Sandy bought a blood pressure machine to closely monitor her blood pressure at home once a week.
“I normally don’t go to the doctor unless I’m sick,” explains Sandy. “If I had waited to get checked at my yearly exam, I don’t know if I would have made it that long.”
Jamira Howard, clinical aide for Nuclear Medicine, always knew she had high blood pressure. It took a free Heart Health Awareness Month educational event for employees in February 2015 for Jamira to start getting the education she needed to make a change. “The day they checked my blood pressure it was a bit high,” Jamira recalls. “They next checked my BMI and said that since that was also high; I should look into losing weight.”
Jamira was referred to nutritional classes sponsored by MedStar Franklin Square's Bariatric Surgery Program to learn about healthy eating and weight loss. “I went to the nutrition class and it was very interesting so I signed up for the Bariatric Surgery Program,” says Jamira. “I ended up having bariatric surgery and losing 83 pounds.”
At 260 pounds before the surgery, Jamira was having issues with breathing and asthma. Now, Jamira has more energy than ever. “My knee doesn’t bother me anymore,” shares Jamira. “I’m doing more walking and exercising regularly.”
After losing weight, Jamira’s blood pressure is now under control and at a healthy level. “The bariatric educational piece gave me the push I needed,” says Jamira. “I feel great!”
While many times there is no identifiable cause for high blood pressure, high BMI has been identified as one of the risk factors. Changes in lifestyle such as weight loss, increased exercise, and a low-fat diet with limited sodium intake may reduce hypertension.
Uncontrolled high blood pressure increases your risk of serious health problems, including heart attack and stroke. Your primary care physician can take your blood pressure and recommend treatment, if needed. For a physician referral or questions, please call 443-777-7900.
For a physician referral, please call 877-74-HEART (43278).
MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center
9000 Franklin Square Drive
Baltimore, MD 21237
If you do not have a primary care physician call 443-777-8300.