By: Cassidy Hobbs
Johnston County FCS Agent
Heart disease is the number one killer in Johnston County. Heart disease includes a range of problems that result when the blood vessels become narrowed or blocked. Due to the narrowing of the blood vessels, many of those with heart disease have high blood pressure. Heart disease, as well as high blood pressure, can lead to a stroke, heart attack, heart failure, kidney disease, vision loss, and more.
Often times, you may hear that high blood pressure is the “silent killer” as most do not even know they have it. Monitoring your blood pressure is a major step in preventing a heart-related events such as a heart attack. Not every household has a blood pressure machine, but thanks to the Obesity, Diabetes, Heart Disease, and Stroke Prevention Project and Johnston Health, there are numerous opportunities to check your blood pressure at community blood pressure check stations across the county. You can find a full list of stations on the Johnston County Cooperative Extension’s website.
Each station makes it easy to check your blood pressure. There are instructions at each station, and it is very simple- just put the cuff on your arm and press start! It is important to take a moment to sit and rest before checking your blood pressure. If you were just walking around, your blood pressure will be slightly higher as your muscles require more blood and oxygen. Once you have sat and rested a moment and allowed your heart rate to return to a resting heart rate, place the cuff on your arm, just above the elbow. Next, press start. It is important not to eat or drink caffeine within thirty minutes before checking your blood pressure. Caffeine is a stimulant that will raise your heart rate and blood pressure, and eating requires your digestive system to need more blood and oxygen, thus raising your blood pressure.
A normal blood pressure reading is 120/80. If you begin to monitor your blood pressure and that your blood pressure is consistently elevated above 120/80, you should see your doctor. Monitoring your blood pressure, and seeing your doctor if your blood pressure is consistently elevated, could save your life.
An additional step in preventing heart problems, or managing them, is eating lots of fiber! Fiber is the reason you always hear that you should eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Fiber helps to manage your blood pressure, blood sugar, and it even helps to clean up some of that cholesterol your doctor may have told you about. There are lots of people talking about eating more “plant-based protein.” That isn’t an attack on our livestock producers, rather it is an encouragement to eat more fiber. Eating meat will supply you with some of the nutrients you need, but it does not supply you with fiber which is crucial in a healthy diet. Adults should consume between 25g and 35g of fiber each day.
Each blood pressure check station will supply you with nutrition resources, educational materials, as well as blood pressure diaries so you may track your blood pressure readings.
Please be sure to visit the Johnston County Cooperative Extension’s website to view a list of community blood pressure check station locations. The Johnston County Ag Center welcomes you to check your blood pressure as well as inquire about upcoming programs. North Carolina Cooperative Extension is a research-based organization that provides information to the community in the areas of agriculture, food and nutrition, and 4-H youth development.