Happy Heart Month!

By Kathy Ferguson, RN, Parish Nurse

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord. Psalm 31:24 

It is February and that means it is American Heart Month. This month’s column will focus on blood pressure. In November 2017, the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology published new guidelines for the diagnosis of hypertension (high blood pressure). In honor of American Heart Month, take some time to get to know your heart and your blood pressure.

High blood pressure is when your blood pressure, the force of the blood flowing through your blood vessels, is consistently too high. Your blood pressure reading is recorded as two numbers:

  • Systolic blood pressure (the top number) — indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls during heartbeats.
  • Diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) — indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls while the heart is resting between beats.

I get asked many times about which, the top number or the bottom number, is more important.  My response is, “They are both important!” The American Heart Association says that more attention is usually given to systolic blood pressure. In most people, systolic blood pressure rises steadily with age. However, elevated systolic or diastolic blood pressure alone may be used to make a diagnosis of high blood pressure.

High blood pressure is known as a “silent killer”. Most times there are no symptoms. Nearly half of American adults have high blood pressure and many don’t even know they have it. The best way to diagnose high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure measured. A single high reading does not mean that you have high blood pressure. But, if your readings continue to stay high, your health care provider will most likely advise treatment. Treatment can include lifestyle changes and possibly medication. Following the advice of your health care provider is important.  If left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to heart attack and stroke.

The blood pressure guideline changes of November 2017 affect the point at which high blood pressure is diagnosed. What previously was considered a normal blood pressure or pre-hypertension may now mean you have hypertension. As always, discuss your blood pressure readings with your primary care provider.

Blood Pressure Category Systolic (top number)   Diastolic (lower number)
Normal Less than 120 And Less than 80
Elevated 120-129 And Less than 80
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

Stage 1

130-139 Or 80-89
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

Stage 2

140 or higher Or 90 or higher
Hypertensive Crisis

(Consult your doctor immediately)

Higher than 180 And/or Higher than 120

Get to know your blood pressure readings this month. At Bethel, you can have your blood pressure checked monthly, usually on the fourth Sunday, in the church office conference room between 8:30 and 11:45 a.m. If you would like more information or a brochure about blood pressure, please contact Kathy Ferguson, RN, Parish Nurse by contacting the church office or by email ferguson@bethellutheran.com  

Happy Heart Month!

Book your tickets