By Sarah Fedele
“I was scared to death when I found out that I had high blood pressure,” shares Carolyn Kiser. “It is stupid for people to find out they have high blood pressure and not take care of it.”
Carolyn has a reason to be scared. She learned it from her mom. She really learned it from her grandfather.
“My mom had high blood pressure and she knew how dangerous it could be. She went to her doctor’s office every week to check her blood pressure. She also exercised, ate healthy and was strict with her ‘no salt’ rule,” remembers Carolyn.
Her mom’s fear of the silent killer was justified and so is Carolyn’s. Carolyn’s grandfather suffered a stroke at age 72 due to uncontrolled high blood pressure. “He didn’t even know that he had high blood pressure,” shares Carolyn. “Knowing your blood pressure numbers and doing what you can to manage them is important. I’m doing all I can to prevent having a stroke.”
In her mid-40s, Carolyn went to have a routine colonoscopy. The nurse told her that she needed to go see her regular doctor because she had high blood pressure.
Over the years, Carolyn has been on different blood pressure medications and has had to work with different medications and different doses to find the right fit. About eight years ago, her blood pressure started to go up again.
The American Heart Association’s new blood pressure guidelines still set the goal for 120/80 as a healthy blood pressure and identify anything over 130/80 as high blood pressure. “My BP had gotten to 160/90 at one point and, again, I was scared,” shares Carolyn. Her regular doctors continued to try to find the right balance between medication and lifestyle changes to help get her blood pressure under control.
Then in 2010, heart disease entered the picture. “I felt a tightness in my chest that I thought could have been pneumonia,” says Carolyn. “I went to change the sheets that I had drying on the line in our backyard when it hit me. It felt like a tearing feeling in my chest.” Carolyn’s husband, Larry, suggested that they take her blood pressure. “I said ‘no,’ give me two aspirin and take me to the hospital,” remembers Carolyn. They were at the hospital for about six hours when Carolyn stood up to use the restroom. “As soon as I stood up, that pain hit me hard again,” recalls Carolyn. A heart catheterization revealed that she had a 90% blockage in her main aorta and a stent was implanted.
Uncontrolled high blood pressure is often the first domino in a chain or “domino effect” leading to devastating consequences like stroke, heart failure, heart attack, vision loss, kidney disease, and more. A simple blood pressure check is the first step to stopping the domino effect.
Nearly half of all adults in the United States have high blood pressure. However, it is treatable and preventable. With accurate and regular self-monitoring, the effects of high blood pressure may be detected and treated, saving lives.
Carolyn has a blood pressure cuff at home and makes sure that she knows her numbers. Her latest blood pressure readings are 112/72, a healthy blood pressure to help manage the fears.
She also works with physicians to manage her blood pressure medications. “About six months ago, my blood pressure started creeping up again. Physicians altered doses to try and get it under control. Then I had severe swelling side effects due to the change in medication. One of the physician assistants at Novant Health Cardiology, Camilla Helton, identified the issue and helped me get my blood pressure and the swelling back under control. I love Camilla and am so happy that I found someone I trust that can help me better manage my blood pressure,” shares Carolyn.
The American Heart Association and Forsyth County’s “life is why” program sponsor, Novant Health, have joined together to focus on making a community impact in the blood pressure of Forsyth County residents this year. The goal of engaging 5,000 people with Check. Change. Control. in Forsyth County will have a significant impact on the health of our community.
Get your blood pressure checked today and track your BP for free at heart.org/CheckItTriad. Use code: CCCNH to get personalized tips on how to better control your BP.