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Keeping the Heart Healthy: Managing High Blood Pressure

February 24, 2014

Sheritta Frazier could have had a heart attack or a stroke. Her blood pressure was so out of control that it turned into a medical emergency one day in 2002.

Sheritta Frazier keeps her high blood pressure in check by knowing her numbers, taking medication and making healthy choices.

“Believe it or not, my blood pressure has spiked as high as 259/160,” she said. “I was walking around like there was nothing wrong.”

Frazier was diagnosed with high blood pressure, also called hypertension, at age 34 after watching her mother and her grandmother battle the same disease. But after working for 17 years in public health in the Southwest Health District in Albany, Frazier, now 46, knows that high blood pressure does not have to be a death sentence. She is committed to improving her own health and to helping others in her family and community address their own risk factors.

To keep her blood pressure in check, Frazier knows her numbers. She begins each day by checking her blood pressure. When her blood pressure rises above the normal rate, which is 120/80, she knows that she needs to adjust her habits. Ignoring the warning signs could be deadly.

“According to my health care provider, I have been instructed to watch my sodium intake, exercise, take my medication and monitor my blood pressure on a daily basis,” said Frazier.

By knowing their numbers, taking medication and making healthy lifestyle choices, many people can manage their hypertension and avoid other serious health problems. But of the 67 million Americans who have high blood pressure, about 35 million don’t have control of it. Many people may not even realize that they have a medical problem. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) call hypertension a “silent killer” because it often has no warning signs or symptoms.

 Source: CDC

Frazier models a healthy lifestyle in her community and workplace, and she advocates to help others control their blood pressure.

“Sheritta has been a key champion in working with DPH’s Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention program,” said Keith Mitchell, program manager of the department's Cardiovascular Health Initiative. “She helps to recruit faith-based partners to become active members to carry the messages of knowing the risk factors of heart attacks and stroke and to develop health and wellness ministries."

Mitchell also credits her with helping individuals make lifestyle changes as they are educated on how to prevent, treat and control high blood pressure.

Controlling her blood pressure is especially important for Frazier since she has a strong family history of heart disease. Her mother was diagnosed in 2010 with congestive heart failure and died of a heart attack three years later at age 68. Frazier’s grandmother died from a massive heart attack four decades earlier. And one of her older sisters died in 2012 from heart disease. Frazier has seven siblings with hypertension and two of them have heart disease.

“My mother’s underlying causes of heart disease were hypertension, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, asthma, sleep apnea and obesity,” said Frazier. “My mother eventually made the adjustment to start eating healthy.  She had some problems with daily physical activity because she had knee problems, and would get short of breath during exercise.”

Leading by example, Frazier encourages her siblings to live healthier lifestyles. She follows a daily regime of two high blood pressure medications, and she’s working on losing weight through regular exercise. Her number one goal for herself and her family is to avoid any debilitating illnesses that may take away the quality and longevity of life.

“Now with medical treatment and exercise, my blood pressure is normal at 120/80. I am very successful at sticking with my health care provider’s plan,” she said. “I value my health and I try to inform others around me of the risks of all chronic diseases.”

To learn more about high blood pressure control, visit DPH’s website.