Polk Red Cross stresses importance of knowing blood pressure numbers

Published 3:35 pm Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Known as The Silent Killer, high blood pressure can cause damage without showing any signs or symptoms. However, even without symptoms, high blood pressure takes a toll on your heart, your blood vessels, and your kidneys.

In fact, high blood pressure is one of the most common contributing factors of heart disease, stroke and kidney disease; the first, third, and ninth leading causes of death in the U.S. In addition, high blood pressure also increases your chances of dementia.

What is blood pressure?

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Blood pressure, measured with a blood pressure cuff and stethoscope by a nurse or other healthcare provider, is the force of the blood pushing against the artery walls. Each time the heart beats, it pumps blood into the arteries, resulting in the highest blood pressure as the heart contracts. One cannot take ones own blood pressure unless an electronic blood pressure monitoring device is used.

Two numbers are recorded when measuring blood pressure. The higher number, or systolic pressure, refers to the pressure inside the artery when the heart contracts and pumps blood through the body. The lower number, or diastolic pressure, refers to the pressure inside the artery when the heart is at rest and is filling with blood. Both the systolic and diastolic pressures are recorded as mm Hg (millimeters of mercury). This recording represents how high the mercury column is raised by the pressure of the blood.

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.

The Polk County Red Cross offers free blood pressure checks twice a month at Owens Pharmacy in Tryon from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Novembers dates will be November 5 and 19.