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The Connection Between High Blood Pressure & Stroke

High Blood Pressure Education Month, also known as Hypertension Awareness Month, is a crucial annual event in May. Its primary aim is to highlight the significant impact of blood pressure on health. It is estimated that over 50 percent of American adults have high blood pressure, with many being unaware of their condition. Recognizing high blood pressure is not just important, it’s imperative, as it’s a major risk factor for life-threatening conditions like heart disease and stroke.

That may be why it is also National Stroke Awareness Month. Strokes can impact anyone, at any age, when blood to the brain is blocked or when a blood vessel bursts in the brain. Understanding the risks of high blood pressure and how to recognize it can help prevent your chances of having a stroke. The ability to spot the signs of a stroke in you or a loved one can be life-saving, making a significant difference in treatment and recovery.

Understanding High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a common condition impacting your body’s arteries. When you have high blood pressure, your heart is working too hard to pump blood, with the force of blood moving through your body being too high, which can damage vital systems and organs. Unfortunately, high blood pressure does not typically have any signs or symptoms, making it possible for individuals not to know they have the condition for years. However, several risk factors impact your blood pressure, including:

  • Age
  • Certain Chronic Conditions
  • Drinking Alcohol
  • Eating Too Much Salt
  • Family History
  • Lack of Physical Activity
  • Low Potassium
  • Pregnancy
  • Race
  • Stress
  • Tobacco Use
  • Vaping
  • Weight

Checking your blood pressure is a vital part of maintaining good health. Your doctor usually does this before an appointment. Many pharmacies also have free blood pressure monitors that customers can use to check their own blood pressure. Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury, notated as mm Hg. The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association have split blood pressure measurements into four distinct categories:

  • Normal Blood Pressure: Lower than 120/80 mm Hg
  • Elevated Blood Pressure: The top number ranges from 120 to 129, with the bottom number below 80.
  • Stage 1 Hypertension: The top number ranges from 130 to 139, with the bottom number between 80 and 89.
  • Stage 2 Hypertension: The top number ranges from 140 or higher, with the bottom number 90 or higher.

If blood pressure ever measures higher than 180/120 mm Hg, it is considered a hypertensive crisis, and emergency medical help is needed immediately. When left untreated, high blood pressure increases the risk of severe health issues like heart attack and stroke.

Recognizing the Signs of a Stroke

When you or someone close to you experiences a stroke, it is not an exaggeration to say that every second counts. That’s because from the first moment a sign of stroke appears, the most beneficial treatments for stroke need to be applied within three hours to have the best health outcomes. The warning signs of stroke appear suddenly and include:

  • Numbness or weakness in the arm, face, or leg, particularly on one side of the body
  • Confusion, difficulty speaking or understanding speech
  • Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Dizziness, difficulty walking, lack of coordination, or loss of balance
  • Severe headache with no known cause

If any of the above symptoms occur, it is important to call 9-1-1 immediately. Additionally, note the time when symptoms first appeared, as that will help medical personnel determine the best avenue for treatment.

Need an easy way to remember how to recognize a stroke? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Stroke Association want you to remember to act FAST:

  • Face: Ask the person to smile. Does it droop?
  • Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm have trouble staying up?
  • Speech: Ask the person to say their name. Is their speech slurred or garbled?
  • Time: If you see any of these warning signs, call 9-1-1 FAST.

Calling 9-1-1 is the correct, immediate action. Do not attempt to drive yourself or someone else to the hospital. That is because when you contact emergency personnel, they can immediately begin life-saving treatment when time matters most.

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