Know your numbers, save your own life

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    It's one of the most common and- probably- ignored set of numbers around: The blood pressure reading.

    How much do you pay attention?

    Staying on top of those numbers could save your life.

    Dr. Frank Tilli, of Genesys Heart Institute says the numbers speak for themselves, "If you combine all of the cancer deaths, they don't equal what heart disease takes from us, in terms of deaths of women in America."

    Dr. Tilli says hypertension- high blood pressure- is one of the key risk factors for heart disease, "Uncontrolled blood pressure not only increases your risk of heart attack and stroke, particularly in women, higher blood pressure can increase their risk."

    The C-D-C says about a third of American adults has high blood pressure. Less than half of those people have it under control.

    Along with several effective drug therapies, Dr. Tilli says there are other ways to bring blood pressure down, "I've got many patients over the years that have done the light thing, limited their salt intake, start exercising, lost the weight. and we've actually- maybe not stoppped their anti-hypertensive medication, but cut it down quite a bit."

    But before you can do anything about your blood pressure, you have to know what it is. The latest guidelines put a normal blood pressure at 120 over 80.

    "If you haven't seen your primary care physican, and don't know your numbers, particularly by the age of 50, you should," Tilli cautions.

    That said, Covenant cardiac nurse, Debbie Best says that one blood pressure reading at the doctor's office does not necessarily tell the whole story, "You have to look at the situation. They've come running in. Now you're sitting there, the doctor's telling you stuff. Of course it's going to go up. I always tell patients, if you have a way to take a blood pressure, take it. take those numbers into your doctor and show him what those are. that's how you can be your patient advocate."

    Dr. Tilli adds, "And we can get a trend and we can look at it. And that's better, quite frankly than what I am doing here, because this can be an anxiety provoking event for a lot of people."

    If you are looking to buy your own blood pressure monitor, Tilli says the upper arm cuffs typically have better accuracy than the wrist cuffs.

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