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Time to Check Your Blood Pressure

By: Julio Barthson

Date Posted: 2000-03-05

The Kadena Health and Wellness Center conducted free blood pressure screening at the Kadena Main Exchange last Friday, February 25th from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. The free screening was done within the framework of the Healthy Heart Month, which is normally February.

The people who turned out to get their brief blood pressure diagnosis may not have gone through a tedious and utterly significant exercise, but it was one very important routine check recommended by most medical doctors nowadays. High blood pressure does not often present clear symptoms, the reason why it is referred to as the “Silent Killer.” As such, blood pressure should always be closely monitored.

According to several documents presently available at the Kadena Health and Wellness Center, many cases of cardiovascular diseases linked to high cholesterol in the body can be prevented through simple measures if potential patients have the right education on their causes. Such is the case with high blood pressure.

When one’s heart beats, it actually contracts and squeezes blood into the arteries, thereby creating some pressure in them. This blood pressure is responsible for the flow of blood to all parts of any individual’s body. Consequently, if the arteries shrink constantly, or constrict, they make it harder for blood to flow because they are then too small.

Blood pressure is measured through two indicators taken together: the systolic pressure (pressure generated through heart contraction) and diastolic (pressure while the heart is at rest). Medical experts agree that normal blood pressure - under 140/90 (sytolic/diastolic) - is an indicator of a good heart condition for an adult. Any figures above that count (or around the same numbers for people who eat lots of fatty foods and do not exercise) can be considered dangerous. That is high blood pressure, capable of causing a major cardiovascular failure at any moment.

According to a document published by the American Heart Association, “high blood pressure can damage blood vessels in various parts of [the] body. And the longer high blood pressure is left untreated, the more likely organs such as your heart, brain, kidneys or eyes will be damaged. Such damage can lead to heart attack, brain attack, heart failure, kidney failure or eye problems.”

The Association of Black Cardiologists, Inc. (ABC) and the International Society on Hypertension in Blacks (ISHIB) have also recently come out very forcefully to corroborate the theory that men and women of black descent are more likely than people of any other race to be affected by heart blood pressure. One pamphlet endorsed by both organizations and the American Heart Association states in clear terms: “High blood pressure is the No.1 preventable cause of over 65,000 excess deaths annually among African-Americans. It develops earlier in life in blacks than in whites and is usually more severe.”

Some of the main causes of high blood pressure include race (blacks are more vulnerable) and genetics (the problem just runs in some families more than in others). W. R. Spence, M.D., also suggests that “most cases of high blood pressure don’t have a cause. This kind of blood pressure is called primary hypertension.” However, the most common cases of diseases linked to high blood are poor diet, lack of sufficient exercise, excessive smoking, excessive consumption of caffeine and alcohol, overweight and related obesity.

As such, many experts on heart problems would advise anyone to apply the following preventive measures aimed at helping to stabilize blood pressure at acceptable levels:

- Constant exercise: this can help any individual lose extra weight and replace it with stamina, energy and more years to one’s life. Exercise through stretching and aerobics at any of the multiple free facilities in Okinawa could also help very much in relieving tension.

- Weight control through diet: get on a comfortable weight loss program if you are overweight, but avoid “crash diets” and unrealistic weight loss programs. Change diet to a more healthy combination, increase activity level with walking, swimming, running or aerobics to burn excess and useless fat. Also decrease fat consumption to 30% or less of total daily calories.

- Proper food: eat more cereals, pasta and bread, fresh vegetables and fruits, but consume less red meat and settle for fish or skinless chicken or turkey. In general, use low-fat or nonfat dairy products and condiments.

- Reduce salt intake: limit the amount of sodium intake per day. Do not consume more salt than is necessary in any food. Avoid - or at least reduce the intake of - over-salted snacks like chips, salted nuts, crackers, popcorn and pretzels, pickled products, bacon, corned beef, ham, luncheon meats, sausages, blue cheese, Roquefort, canned vegetables, etc.

- Limit Alcohol consumption: Take only a few alcoholic drinks per week, especially if you are facing hypertension. Also cut down on caffeinated beverages so as to bring down blood pressure.

- Avoid anger, stress and tension: all medical experts agree that blood pressure rises with the response to problems in one’s life. It is therefore advised to avoid getting angry too often, or to reduce stress and tension in daily life by limiting offensive arguments at home or the workplace. Relax as often as possible, take a few deep breaths and think positive thoughts. That could be the best way to maintain the best heart condition.

- No smoking: it has been established by medical experts all over the world that smoking is dangerous. It punishes the lungs and therefore reduces the heart’s capacity to work properly in the long term.

Anyone who needs more information on heart education and blood pressure can stop by the Kadena Health and Wellness Center, where there are lots of free information material. Blood pressure screening is also a free regular activity there. For more information or guidance, contact SSgt. Stallworth @ 634-2499.

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