Today I'm thinking about this lady, Mildred Rybacki. Unfortunately, she died on January 3, 2012 after a long battle with alzheimers and a failing heart. What I want to express today is not about how she died, but how she lived with high blood pressure and tended to ignore the weight gain that contributed to it and to the two strokes she suffered.
Fighting risk factors for heart attack, heart failure and stroke is a daunting task which becomes important early--yet gives you little warning. Blood pressure is measured in mm of mercury (millimeters of mercury). This comes from the old blood pressure cuffs that used a glass column filled with mercury and actually measured pressure as the mercury rose up a certain distance in the tube. Risk to your blood vessels, then heart, brain, eyes and kidneys starts with as little as 5 mm of mercury increases. This means that a sustained change from 120/80 to 125 over 85 carries a significant risk over time, even though it doesn't sound like a lot. Think of it as a hammer pounding the inside of your blood vessels.
The lesson here is to check your blood pressure at least once a month (the new British guidelines advocate home blood pressure testing much more frequently). Work with better diet and more exercise to get those nmbers in the best range and keep them there! I have a new medicine monograph on Diovan (valsartan) for high blood pressure, written so that you don't need a PhD to understand it. Take a look on Amazon. I'll also be talking about this book and other matters on heart disease on the Jordan Rich Show. For those of you who are up late, it's at 2 AM on Saturday morning, Feb 25th. For those of you who will be asleep, vist the WBZ radio web site, search the Jordan rich show and search my name--James J Rybacki.
Weight gain is also subtle and it something I've wrestled with all my life. Weight that shows up in your belly is the worst as it is active as an endocrine organ and makes a variety of chemicals that add to inflammation. Inflammation makes it tough for your blood vessels and makes any clogging of the arteries more vulnerable. something that can lead to a heart attack. I have long advocated that we should call being overweight a "fat attack" because it works against you every day. The American Heart Association (AHA), American Stroke Association (ASA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC) have worked hard on defining and studying risk factors...let's take a closer look.
Stroke risk factors include high blood pressure, lack of exercise, high bad cholesterol, low good cholesterol, smoking, poor diet, being over weight and even being diabetic (these also overlap with heart attack risk factors). I'd give anything now to have a few more minutes to talk to my mother, see her smile and enjoy her great wit. When you think about your risk factors for high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease and how you will get to them tomorrow, remember what you have read here today. The people who love you want you around. Make today the day that you work on one risk factor that YOU have for heart disease and stroke. I wish I had taken some extra steps to help Mildred--my Mom...why don't you take one small step today to help yourself and those who love you?