What your blood pressure means

By Britney Glaser - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - High blood pressure can go undetected for years and the results can be serious - from stroke to heart attacks, even heart failure. That's why knowing your numbers is key to living healthy.

It's been 33 years since Barbara Moreau's doctor gave her some surprising news about her health during pregnancy.  "I was pre-eclamptic," said Barbara, "so I had an emergency c-section. After that, my blood pressure never did get back to where it was before."

Like 90 percent of high blood pressure cases in adults, there was not an identifiable cause for Barbara's high numbers.

Lake Charles Memorial Hospital family medicine physician Dr. Alan LeBato says there are several factors that could put a person at a higher risk for developing this condition.  "Essential hypertension means you simply inherited it from your parents," said Dr. LeBato, "but it also falls into patients that are overweight or obese, people that eat too much salt are sedentary, don't exercise a lot."

Blood pressure is measured with an inflatable arm cuff and a pressure-measuring gauge.  "Blood pressure is made up of two numbers," said Dr. LeBato, "the top number is called the systolic number and that's usually the higher number - it's the force or pressure with which the heart pumps."  That number should be under 140.

Dr. LeBato added, "The bottom number is the diastolic number - that's the pressure with which the heart fills. It should be lower than 90."

If those numbers are higher, Dr. LeBato says it's time to make some lifestyle changes - and like Barbara's case, a daily pill might be needed to keep the numbers in check.  "For me, it's blood pressure meds and watch my salt," said Barbara.

High blood pressure can be life-threatening if it's not controlled.  "It's silent," said Dr. LeBato, "it doesn't cause a lot of symptoms, but it's the leading cause of stroke, heart attack, heart disease, heart failure and kidney failure in our country."

At 73 years old, Barbara is staying on top of her blood pressure to make sure that she gets to keep enjoying what matters most.  "I love to sew," said Barbara, "and I love to garden and play with the grandkids."

*To learn more about high blood pressure and cholesterol, tune in to Memorial Health e-Radio today at 1:00 p.m.  Dr. LeBato will be going more in-depth on these topics for his listeners. Click here to listen.

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