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Know your numbers: February is Heart Health Awareness Month

This chart depicts what is considered normal; prehypertension; high blood pressure stages 1 and 2; and hypertensive crisis. It also depists these categories for both systolic and diastolic pressures. (American Heart Association image)

This chart depicts what is considered normal; prehypertension; high blood pressure stages 1 and 2; and hypertensive crisis. It also depists these categories for both systolic and diastolic pressures. (American Heart Association image)

HORSHAM AIR GUARD STATION, Pa -- High blood pressure, commonly called hypertension, is one of the most frequently treated conditions among military members. To ensure hypertension is controlled, Airmen of the 111th Attack Wing using blood pressure medication must have annual screenings at the medical group here.

This screening is required alongside the member being monitored by a primary care provider or elsewhere, according to the 111th ATKW medical group.

When blood pressure is repeatedly higher than 120/80 mmHg, patients can be at risk for heart attack, stroke, congestive heart failure, kidney failure and bulges or weak spot in the arteries and brain called aneurysms . Even moderately high blood pressures, readings in excess of 140/90mmHg, can lead to a shortened life expectancy. African American ethnicity, obesity, smoking cigarettes, diabetics, high sodium levels, alcohol abuse, or a family history of hypertension are all risk factors for high blood pressure according to the American Heart Association.

According to the AHA, 83 percent of those with hypertension have no symptoms at all. In a crisis stage of blood pressure, defined as higher than 180/110mmHg, severe headaches, severe anxiety, shortness of breath and nose bleeds may be evident. The only real way to know for sure is to have blood pressure taken as there are numerous myths associated with this condition, such as blood spots in the eyes, facial flushing and dizziness. 

Once diagnosed, high blood pressure is commonly treated with lifestyle changes and medicines. Following a healthy diet, managing stress, quitting smoking, being physically active and maintaining a healthy weight may also contribute to a healthy heart and a help to decrease blood pressure. Adhering to a treatment plan can help prevent or delay problems related to HBP, helping to save lives and maintain an active lifestyle.

When a wing member's doctor identifies hypertension, the medical group can provide blood pressure checks to help establish baseline numbers.   
For more information about heart health, members are urged to see their primary care provider or go to, http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/. 

What are those numbers anyway?

Top number is systolic: The higher of the two numbers, this is the pressure against the artery walls when the heart muscle pumps
Bottom number is diastolic: The lower of the numbers, measures the pressure against the artery walls between heartbeats, while the heart is resting and refilling.
(Editor's note: 111th Attack Wing Public Affairs contributed to this article)