Blood pressure and stroke: act FAST

The Tennessee Department of Health estimates one of every three adults in the state has high blood pressure. Because the medical condition often has no signs or symptoms as it damages vital organs, it is sometimes known as the “silent killer.” 

“For many years, I have likened high blood pressure to a car driven at high RPMs; it will run, just not as long,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “Over time, it will quietly destroy every part of your body. It can thicken or narrow blood vessels throughout the body, leading to brain damage, blindness, amputations, kidney failure and stroke. Because stroke is among the results of untreated high blood pressure, everyone should know how to recognize it using the ‘FAST’ test.” 

If you suspect a person is having a stroke, the FAST test involves four simple steps to help you gauge a person’s condition: 

Face:  Does one side of the person’s face droop when he or she attempts to talk or change expressions? 

Arms:  If the person tries to lift both arms, does one arm not want to respond or drift downward? 

Speech:  If the person tries to repeat a short sentence, can he or she do so correctly, without slurring any of the words? 

Time:  If any of these symptoms are present, time is critical. It’s important to call 911 or get the person to a hospital fast. Getting rapid treatment may mean the difference between full recovery and permanent loss of vital brain functions.

 A good way to prevent strokes and other high blood pressure-related conditions is to have regular blood pressure checks. A blood pressure check is painless and for most people can be done in less than three minutes. 

Clinicians generally use an inflatable cuff around the upper arm to measure blood pressure.

Blood pressure is recorded as the systolic pressure, when the heart is pumping, and the diastolic pressure, when the heart is at rest. The two numbers are written with the systolic pressure first, for example 110/70. For most people, normal blood pressure is less than 120/80; borderline high blood pressure is between 120/80 and 139/89, and high blood pressure is considered as 140/90 or greater. High blood pressure, also called hypertension, carries an increased risk of stroke. 

There are several treatment options for borderline or high blood pressure. For some, changes to diet and exercise are sufficient; for others, medications are necessary. Remember stroke can be prevented! Don’t wait too late to identify and treat this potentially devastating condition. 

For additional information about high blood pressure, see your healthcare provider or visit the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website at www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hbp/ 

For more information about FAST and stroke, visit www.stroke.org/site/PageServer?pagename=FAST 

The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. For more information about TDH services and programs, visit http://health.state.tn.us/.

Posted on Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 8:03 pm