Reprinted from The Daily Sentinel, Page A08
Tuesday, 9 May 2023
By Suzanne Metcalf, RN
At MarillacHealth, we are privileged to partner with patients as they set goals for improved health. When you care for 10,000 patients or more each year, the improved health of your patient population calls for recognition and celebration. We’ll save that for last.
First, let’s talk about hypertension. Most people know how common and dangerous high blood pressure (hypertension) is, but did you know that 1 in 2 Americans has high blood pressure? For most of us, hypertension is a lifestyle disease brought on by excess weight, poor eating and exercise habits, daily stress and lack of awareness. As we grow older, hypertension becomes more common, but adolescents and young adults can have it, too. Men are slightly more likely to develop hypertension than women; persons with diabetes have increased likelihood; and heredity has a strong influence. May is Hypertension Awareness Month, the perfect opportunity for all of us to check our understanding of this condition.
High blood pressure is a serious condition — very serious. It can affect and permanently damage your heart, brain, eyes and kidneys. Health care professionals call hypertension “the silent killer” because you can have it and never feel sick. Unlike most illnesses or conditions that have noticeable warning signs or symptoms, high blood pressure is invisible and undetectable. The only way of knowing whether you have high blood pressure is to measure it.
Quick question: When was the last time you had your blood pressure checked? It is smart to have your blood pressure (BP) checked four times per year, to monitor if it is in the safe zone. It takes only a minute or two at the doctor’s office, the local pharmacy, or even at home. Normal or healthy BP is 120/80 or lower. If your upper number (systolic reading) is 121 [to] 139, that is considered elevated, also known as pre-hypertension. If your blood pressure is consistently 140/90 or higher, that meets the criteria for hypertension.
The good news is that nearly all hypertension is easily detected and managed when you work with your primary care doctor. Your doctor can help you understand your hypertension and minimize its impact on your health and longevity. Your doctor and care team will partner with you to develop a treatment plan that is doable. Sometimes increasing physical activity, quitting smoking, eating well and managing stress will bring your BP into the healthy range, but today there are numerous medications that are successful in treating hypertension, too.
Unfortunately, national studies indicate only 1 in 4 Americans (25%) with hypertension have their condition safely under control. MarillacHealth sets important quality measures for the patient population we serve. In 2022, one of our quality measures was that at least 61% of our patients (ages 18-85, with hypertension) would achieve control. By the end of 2022, 72.75% of our hypertensive patients had achieved blood pressure within the controlled range. With that kind of outcome, you can understand our urge to toss some confetti and toot our horns! Each patient with controlled blood pressure is less likely to have a heart attack, a disabling or fatal stroke, dementia, kidney disease or other serious health problems.
To our 1,500 patients who are tackling hypertension and the Marillac care teams who are supporting them, we say, “take that, hypertension!” and “bravo, Marillac patients and care teams!”
Content source: https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/facts.htm
Suzanne Metcalf is a registered nurse.