Media contacts:
Sherry Baker, 404/377-1398,
Kathi Ovnic, 404/727-9371,
Janet Christenbury, 404/727-8599,
May 20, 2002


Look and Feel Healthy? That's No Guarantee Your Blood Pressure Is In The Healthy Range

What does someone with high blood pressure look like? If you describe a middle-aged person who is inactive and overweight, you are only partially right. While it is true that risk factors such as lack of exercise and obesity greatly up the odds someone may have high blood pressure (also known as hypertension), that doesn't mean people who are young, slim and work out regularly can ignore the possibility they have a blood pressure problem. "In fact, many with hypertension do not fit the stereotype of being overweight and out of shape. That's one reason it is so important that everyone have their blood pressure checked periodically," says Emory Heart Center cardiologist Laurence Sperling, M.D., Director of Emory's Heartwise Risk Reduction Program.

May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month -- a perfect time to make sure you know whether your blood pressure is within healthy, normal limits. One of the simplest and quickest of medical tests, a blood pressure measurement (made with a device called a sphygmomanometer) is totally painless and non-invasive. The reading can reveal hypertension in the early stages when a strategy of diet changes, exercise and weight control and medication, if needed, can help prevent a host of high blood pressure related ills including heart attacks, heart failure, kidney disease and strokes.

Generally, blood pressure above 140/90 is considered to be high for adults, according to Dr. Sperling. Although hypertension can produce symptoms including fatigue, confusion, nausea, vision problems and excessive sweating, he points out that the majority of people with mild to moderate hypertension have no symptoms that indicate their blood pressure is too high.

"Nearly 50 million Americans have high blood pressure, and almost a third are unaware of it, " says Dr. Sperling. "If someone does not know his or her blood pressure, they need to find out. Guessing that your blood pressure is normal just because you feel good or are fairly young and fit can be a deadly mistake. On the other hand, if you find out your blood pressure is high, don't panic. Use the news as an opportunity to take control of your health and work with your doctor to reduce your blood pressure to a normal range. There are a host of approaches that work – but the first step is finding out you need help."

The Emory HeartWise Risk Reduction Program is designed for anyone who has experienced a heart or circulatory event or for anyone who is considered " at risk" for heart disease. Emory Heart Center physicians and other health professionals offer individualized risk assessments followed by a carefully monitored program of exercise, nutrition and education to help lower heart disease risk. To find out more about the HeartWise program, call 404-778-2850.

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