In May, Barnabas Health Heart Center at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston recognizes National Stroke Awareness Month and encourages individuals to understand high blood pressure – the single leading cause of stroke.
The most important controllable risk factor for stroke is controlling high blood pressure, a condition which can damage your blood vessels (called arteries) that supply blood to the brain.
What is blood pressure?
Blood pressure is the force of your blood pushing against your artery walls. The force is generated with each heartbeat as blood is pumped from the heart into the blood vessels. Each time your heart beats (contracts and relaxes), pressure is created inside the arteries. The pressure is greatest when blood is pumped out of the heart into the arteries or systole. When the heart relaxes between beats (blood is not moving out of the heart), the pressure falls in the arteries or diastole.
Two numbers are recorded when measuring blood pressure. The top number, or systolic pressure, refers to the pressure inside the artery when the heart contracts and pumps blood through the body. The bottom number, or
diastolic pressure, refers to the pressure inside the artery when the heart is at rest and is filling with blood.
How does high blood pressure impact the risk for stroke?
High blood pressure, or hypertension, directly increases the risk of coronary heart disease (heart attack) and stroke (brain attack). With high blood pressure, the arteries may have an increased resistance against the flow of blood, causing the heart to pump harder to circulate the blood. Usually, high blood pressure has no signs or symptoms. However, you can know if your blood pressure is high by having it checked regularly by your health care provider.
What are the risk factors for high blood pressure?
Nearly one-third of all Americans have high blood pressure, but it is particularly prevalent in:
- People who have diabetes, gout or kidney disease
- African Americans (particularly those who live in the southeastern United States)
- People with a family history of high blood pressure
- Obese people
- Heavy drinkers of alcohol
- Women who are taking oral contraceptives
How is high blood pressure controlled?
High blood pressure can be controlled by:
- Taking prescribed medications exactly as ordered by your health care provider
- Choosing foods that are low in sodium (salt), calories and fat
- Choosing foods high in fiber
- Maintaining a healthy weight, or losing weight if overweight
- Limiting serving sizes
- Increasing physical activity
- Reducing or omitting alcoholic beverages
Because high blood pressure often has no signs or symptoms, it is important to get your blood pressure checked each time you visit your physician. For a referral to a Saint Barnabas Medical Center cardiologist or primary care physician, call 888-724-7123.
For more information about high blood pressure or stroke, visit the Wellness section of the Barnabas Health library at http://healthlibrary.barnabashealth.org.
About Barnabas Health Heart Centers – Life is Better Heart Healthy
Barnabas Health's expansive network of cardiac services and facilities offers all the advantages of a single, multi-center program, with convenient access to consultation, testing, follow-up care, and rehabilitation. Our award-winning Heart Centers are nationally recognized. We offer adult and pediatric cardiovascular programs throughout New Jersey. Our emergency department provides treatment and diagnosis of heart attack and other cardiac conditions. Barnabas Health's cardiac surgeons perform minimally invasive valve and bypass surgeries, and complex open-heart surgery. Our heart transplant program is the third largest in the nation.
Our Heart Centers act as a model for today's most progressive cardiac programs, bringing together an extensive team of experienced heart specialists with a full complement of clinical resources. Our patient-centered philosophy continues to guide our ambition to improve the heart health of New Jersey residents.
For more information and location details, visit barnabashealth.org/heartcenters.