My first brush with raising blood pressure came as a teenager on a long road trip with my family. My father suddenly landed flat on his back during the worst thunderstorm I had ever witnessed and struggled to crawl to safety. I don’t remember much about the night, but I remember seeing my mother holding my father’s bloodied face as my sisters walked to a nearby gas station to seek medical attention. They had arrived late that night — early morning, even — and never heard a word about Dad.
As I drove my parents home from the hospital, I could hardly contain my panic. I remember thinking to myself: What if he passed away? I called my mother repeatedly, but she didn’t pick up the phone. It was shocking that she had no medical knowledge, especially when we were a medical family. I told myself that I had to take care of him — the way my grandmother would have — but it seemed impossible. I have always been a hyper, hyper-reciprocating person, focused on most things that are important to me. So, I contacted my college roommate’s father and cried in front of him, unable to find any words for what had happened to my father. He was just as helpless as I was, and when he arrived on the scene — and there was no medical record to be found — I wasn’t sure he would get to help.
I was equally helpless and afraid of my 11-year-old self. What if things had taken a different turn? Would I have taken the actions that I took in that instant? I wonder what I would have done to save my father.
I grew up in a house with four other sisters and a twin brother who took great care of me. We lived very simply — my mother was always always at home — and my father worked in the emergency room. We moved through life living below our means and it was our father’s journey through his career that eventually created the three of us.
High blood pressure, that fatal disease that weighs on your heart, brain and other organs, affects up to 75 million Americans. It’s the reason we need to be alert to potential problems — although perhaps our aging population is more vulnerable than in the past.
Millions more suffer from non-hypertensive hypertension — or hypertension in a non-hypertensive population.
Obesity puts the average American above the normal risk for hypertension. The average American woman should weigh less than 100 pounds to have a low chance of hypertension. But we are at a dangerous risk of obesity.
Many people are unaware that they’re at risk of high blood pressure. They don’t even realize that they have a close relative with high blood pressure, and can be in danger. It’s imperative that we educate ourselves about the disease and make sure we’re aware of our family history. High blood pressure, that fatal disease that weighs on your heart, brain and other organs, affects up to 75 million Americans. It’s the reason we need to be alert to potential problems — although perhaps our aging population is more vulnerable than in the past.
“Often, other risk factors for heart disease like high cholesterol and diabetes are overlooked in favor of blood pressure, which doesn’t have to be a death sentence,” says Dr. Efrem “Efrem” Koch, chairman of the Department of Medicine at Temple University, and founder of the American Heart Association Education Council. “We all should get up to date on our blood pressure to enable us to detect early and prevent or reverse the risk factors for heart disease.”
At the heart of heart disease and stroke is the relationship between heart and blood vessels. The longer that these organs are unable to open and open fully, the more likely they are to rupture. An estimated 16 million Americans are living with clogged arteries that have reached the blood vessels at the point where they can be prevented.
“Proper nutrition, exercise and enough sleep are all important ways of reducing the risk of clogged arteries,” says Dr. Koch.
Seeing your mother or father suffering and struggling is shocking.
Our desire for comfort may lead us to put up obstacles to finding and dealing with a medical problem. Two large recent surveys conducted by the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association paint a scary picture of the resistance we all might face: more than 75 percent of Americans think someone else will take care of their medical care. And over 40 percent believe they will lose their job to take care of their health.
The health care system is in crisis, but the rise of resistance we see is