Taking charge after high blood pressure diagnosis

(AP File Photo/Toby Talbot)
(AP File Photo/Toby Talbot)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Think about this: If you have a group of friends over the age of 20, statistics show one of them will likley be diagnosed with hypertension.

It’s another name for high blood pressure, which can lead to death. And according to the Centers for Disease Control, deaths tied to hypertension rose 23 percent in the past 15 years.

Mary Arana knew something was wrong last Fall and went to see Seton’s Dr. Caitlin Giesler, who found her blood pressure at 165/95, well into dangerous hypertension territory. Arana says she experienced chest discomfort, felt lethargic, fatigued and had vertigo, in addition to having “horrible” headaches.

Dr. Giesler said, “What you eat makes a huge difference in your blood pressure. Your level of exercise, your level of activity also improves your blood pressure. Smoking has a huge impact, smoking constricts your blood vessels. So your blood pressure increases. Sleep is important.”

Hypertension can lead to heart disease, a stroke and kidney failure. St. David’s Cardiologist Dr. Paul Tucker believes part of the problem is we’re a victim of our times. “For years we’ve called it the silent killer, because people don’t know they even have it until they have a problem. It could be a heart attack, it could be a stroke. It could be a problem with their kidneys,” Tucker said. “If you’re eating whole foods at home, you’re cooking at home, you’re eating lean meats and lots of fruits and vegetables, you can salt them a little bit. But really the trick is avoiding processed food, fast foods.”

Mary has changed her life with regular exercise, healthy eating and private time to relieve stress. Her blood pressure dropped to 120/72 and she says she’s feeling great. “It’s actually interesting to eat all this new food I’ve never eaten before. I have tons of energy,” Arana said.

She’s up at five, exercises at six, sees the kids off at seven and heads to work at eight. A healthy woman, on the go.

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