AMHERST – The word is getting out a couple of days early.
“It’s hypertension awareness day on May 17,” said Meaghan O’Hanley, stroke coordinator for the Colchester-East Hants and Cumberland health authorities.
O’Hanley had a table and blood pressure cuff set up in the main foyer of the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre Wednesday. The coordinator said 30 per cent of Nova Scotians have high blood pressure, and ongoing high blood pressure puts a person at risk for narrowed arteries, which increases the risk of stroke, heart attack and kidney failure.
Almost a third of the province may have hypertension, but in O’Hanley’s experience, the average Nova Scotian doesn’t know his own blood pressure numbers. She said the average person should keep their pressure to 140/90 or lower, while those with certain medical issues – she named kidney conditions as well as both types of diabetes – should aim for 130/80 or lower.
The coordinator’s message wasn’t doom and gloom, however.
“Go for a 20 minute walk,” she said – just one of the suggestions a person can implement immediately to improve their health.
Decreasing salt intake is another one of the ideas she presented, as well as eating more fruits and vegetables.
It’s “extremely important” people take blood pressure medications as prescribed, said O’Hanley, and we should limit alcohol intake to a maximum of two drinks per day, as well as look for ways to reduce stress.
The coordinator was offering prizes to coax people into having their blood pressure taken, and she was giving away cards on which a person could keep track of their pressure over time.
As part of the awareness campaign, a group of Cumberland Health Authority nurse practitioners were traveling around the region’s medical facilities doing blood pressure checks on staff.