Checking blood pressure

About 103 million adults in the United States have high blood pressure. Nearly half of those people don’t have their blood pressure controlled. High blood pressure causes the heart to pump harder to move blood through the body which can weaken blood vessels and damage major organs, such as the brain. People who have high blood pressure have 1.5 greater times the risk of having a stroke compared to those who consistently have optimal blood pressure of 120/80.

♥ Mae’s Story

My doctor never said anything to me about high blood pressure before. They would tell me my numbers, but I never really understood what they meant; my blood pressure was never a concern of mine. I guess they thought I had ‘White Coat Syndrome’.

After I lost my husband, I had a lot of friends in Nebraska, but my grand kids and children lived in the Southwest. I visited them at Christmas and decided I wanted to move to Arizona to be near them. It all worked out; I sold my house and my furniture and my friends helped me pack my belongings. My son came up to drive me down South; we stopped in Santa Fe so I could see his children for a few days before moving on to Arizona.

One morning while at my son’s home, I was having trouble breathing. I suffered from asthma, but I wondered if my trouble breathing was due to climate change or because I has been sleeping in an upstairs bedroom. We visited an urgent care clinic; they encouraged me to relax, and focus on my breathing. They asked me if I had oxygen; I did not. They indicated there was not much they could do for me and they sent me home.

That afternoon my arm started feeling tingly. I remember shaking my hand, but it wouldn’t go away. The numbness then traveled up to my cheek. I went into my son’s office, but he was on a business call, so I didn’t interrupt him. My daughter-in-law was upstairs on the phone talking to her mother. My daughter from Arizona just happened to call me. She could tell my speech wasn’t right. She got ahold of my son and told him to get me to the Emergency Room right away; she thought I was having a stroke.

Upon arrival, I was taken immediately to a room where they administered an IV. The nurse came in and took my blood pressure and it was ‘sky high’. She indicated she had other patients, but she was staying with me. She asked me a series of questions, including who our President was; I knew the answer, but could not get the words out. It took the doctors awhile to get my blood pressure down.

During the night and into the next morning, more tests were taken. The doctors then told me that I had suffered a TIA, a transient ischemic attack.

Mae’s suffered her stroke in March of 2015. During a follow-up appointment, one of her doctors told her that she had likely had high blood pressure for a long time. Mae’s daughter, a registered nurse, recalls that the doctor could tell by changes in her retinas. The doctor said she had undiagnosed hypertension.

I was frustrated as I had never been told before that I had high blood pressure. Prior to moving, I had been seen by numerous doctors and had my blood pressure taken regularly. It was a shock to learn that I had high blood pressure and potentially had been living with it for years. At the time, I was very upset. I had really trusted my doctor.

Four years later, Mae regularly takes her blood pressure at home and has frequent visits with both her cardiologist and pulmonologist.

When I go into the clinic for a blood pressure check now, I always ask that they wait at least 5 minutes to check to allow myself time to relax and settle down a bit. Sometimes, they remind me to uncross my legs to help ensure an accurate reading. Also, as patients, it is important to know your blood pressure numbers and pay attention when  being checked. When your blood pressure numbers are shared and if you do not understand, ask the healthcare provider to explain.

I’m on two different blood pressure medications now. I have a home monitor and am supposed to take my blood pressure three times a week. I’ll admit, sometimes I get busy and don’t do that, but I will take in a list of readings to my doctor when I go. That way they can see how I’ve been doing at home.

Today Mae feels great; her asthma has improved, partially due to her new environment. She will continue to take her medications as prescribed and regularly check her blood pressure.

I am back to doing things I love, which includes baking, cooking and spending time with my family.

Mae wants everyone to know the warning signs of stroke and to act on them.

It is important to know the warning signs of a stroke. One minute I could talk and the next minute, I could not. The warning signs are real and need to be acted on right away. There is no time to waste. I am so thankful I was able to be taken to the Emergency Room right away; it may have saved my life.

Controlling blood pressure is one of the most important things a person can do to decrease their risk of stroke. It is important to follow evidence-based treatment protocols and partner with patients to help get blood pressure under control. Utilizing a team-based approach, blood pressure improvement solutions can be implemented with minimal disruption to existing work flows. This team-based approach includes Identifying errors performed by staff when measuring blood pressure and providing education to staff that are performing blood pressures. Learn more.