High Blood Pressure: Watch Your Numbers!
By Dianne Anderson
When most people think of stroke, they may think of age or weight, or someone of the couch potato variety – none of which describes the late great Oscar-nominated film director and screenwriter John Singleton.
His recent death from a stroke at 51 years young didn’t seem to fit the typical medical profile.
Singleton’s death came as a shock, even as the numbers show tremendous disparity for African Americans, who are at higher risk of stroke.
When local health advocate Phyllis Clark first heard that he died, her first thought was blood pressure, and if he was regularly seeing a primary care physician.
“We tend to go as a culture when we’re feeling symptoms,” said Clark, founder of the Healthy Heritage Movement. “Statistics show that African American blood pressure is higher than most. We’ve got to get it early. It leads to heart disease and strokes.”
Whether stress-induced, or the result of diet or lifestyle, regular blood pressure checkups are essential to survival. She said the community must prioritize prevention, and know their numbers so they can stay on track to living a healthy life.
“And as you get up in age, you really need to go to get checked. Early detection saves lives, there is no excuse,” said Clark, who is partnering with several programs and agencies to raise health awareness.
Just like diabetics check their sugar levels daily, she believes that all African Americans should own their own blood pressure monitor. It’s usually affordable at well under $100, and may be covered by insurance.
“I recommend it to anybody over 40, just get your own monitor,” she said. “It could be the thing that saves your life.”
The Journal of the American Heart Association reports that most Black adults, 75% of Black men and women, will likely have high blood pressure before age 55, compared to 55% white men, and 40% white women of the same age.
This month, health educator Dulce Becerra, Outreach Center Supervisor at Community Hospital of San Bernardino is calling on the community to attend their free hypertension classes at the Health Education Center.
On Wednesday, May 22, the blood pressure class runs from 1-2:00 p.m. At 1725 Western Ave, Suite 200, San Bernardino, and covers the causes of high blood pressure, and how to manage it.
Classes are ongoing every other month. In the class, they talk about stress management, and blood pressure control.
Eating just one teaspoon a day of salt is bad for people with high blood pressure. Hypertension is also closely connected to certain foods high in fats and sugar.
“All those things do not help your blood pressure, and they all come from comfort foods. They’re all highly addictive,” she said.
For those at risk, the first rule is to never ignore the numbers.
One-third of Americans are pre-hypertensive, according to the CDC. The CDC recommends blood pressure checks even when patients feel fine, as part of the regular self-monitoring. Anything at, or above, 130/80 is the time be concerned.
Sometimes headaches, or fatigue, or confusion could indicate high blood pressure, but experts say don’t rely on any outward physical signs. People can have high blood pressure for years, and never know until it’s too late.
“It’s really interesting, that a lot of people don’t know that hypertension or high blood pressure is known as the silent killer,” she said.
Local classes focus on skill building, information and resources, and they refer out to the many free classes at local parks and community recreation centers. IEHP also hosts free classes for senior classes with physical activities, programs for people with disabilities, Zumba for adults and kids, along with yoga and Tai Chi, which often used as part of stroke rehabilitation.
Every month, Health Education Center hosts different classes. They offer a popular chronic disease health management program class that runs six weeks, 2.5 hours per week. It’s held twice a year, and always jam-packed.
“That’s one of our more successful classes. I’ve seen some lose up to 50 pounds in one year. The most we’ve seen is 15 pounds in six weeks,” she said.
For the hypertension class, she said that given the numbers of those with high blood pressure in the community, she would expect more people to come out to learn how to take care of their bodies. They usually only get three to 12 participants.
“The people that come to class, a lot of it is stress induced. In our class we talk about stress management,” she said.
Often, she said that patients will go to the hospital or emergency room for some other reason, which is when they find out they have high blood pressure.
No one really thinks about coming to the class until they have had a close call.
“Usually patients or participants that come to class had a hospital scare. They don’t come to class before,” she said.
For more information on health classes, call 909.806.1816