EMS Beat: Are you hyper with tension?

By Albee Bockman, AEMT-P

There are many things that can make us “hyper” these days and cause tension. But putting hyper and tension together to form HYPERTENSION is nothing to fool around with.

Hypertension is another name for high blood pressure. A staggering 85 million people in America have high blood pressure. This medical condition can severely impact quality of life and increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and death.

Simply put, blood pressure is the force exerted by the blood against the walls of our blood vessels. How great the pressure is depends on the work being done by the heart and the resistance of the blood vessels. We are taught that a systolic reading of 120 and a diastolic reading of 80 is a normal blood pressure. Needless to say, should these numbers vary we should be alerted to possible BP issues.

Every household should have a blood pressure kit in order to monitor their pressure. All local pharmacies have automatic machines to perform this easy task. And some even take your pressure for free! So there is no excuse not to have one at your disposal.

Our blood pressure varies throughout the day. It is lower during sleep and higher when we are awake. Having an elevated BP for a short time is a normal physiological response to many situations. Acute stress and intense exercise may – -and I say may – – contribute to a brief elevation in one’s pressure in a healthy person. For this reason, a diagnosis of hypertension requires several readings over time. However, readings of 180/110 or higher is a sign of a “hypertensive crisis” and warrants immediate medical attention.

There are a few risk factors that increase the chances of having hypertension. Age is one of them. With age, blood pressure can increase as the arteries become stiffer and narrower due to plaque build-up. It is more common with those that are over the age of 60. Yeah, I know!

Also, it is no secret or shock that as we get older, we are less active and enjoy going out to eat more often. This may lead to an increase in our weight. Being overweight or obese is a key risk factor. Those of us that fight high cholesterol levels, have cardiovascular disease and other medical conditions are predictors for hypertension.

The crazy thing is a person with hypertension may not notice any symptoms. This is why it is called the “silent killer”. Without treatment, hypertension can cause atherosclerosis where the formation of plaque results in the narrowing of blood vessels. This makes the heart pump harder to deliver blood to the body. And this, my Hurleyville friends, may lead to heart failure, heart attacks, and stroke.

So let’s fight fire with fire! What can we do to limit our risk for hypertension?

Lifestyle choices can contribute to the prevention of high blood pressure. We have always heard ad nauseam people tell us the benefits of eating fruits and veggies. Well, they are right! Reducing the intake of saturated fat by eating more whole grain and omega-3 enriched foods without doubt is a step in the right direction. Minimizing our salt intake and consuming alcohol to a moderate level will also contribute to leading a much healthier existence. And like I said before, watching our weight is key. Exercise is perhaps one of the most beneficial ways to reduce our risk for hypertension. And there is no better way to do that than by a nice brisk walk in the morning or after dinner. This reduces stress, tension, and HYPERTENSION!

For those of us that do fight high blood pressure issues, regular visits to the doctor and being compliant with your medication regiment is key to leading a long, healthy life.

Enjoy the summer, Hurleyville, and stay well!