Today's Paper Sports Obits Tablet Help Time Tour Podcasts Public Notices Classifieds Newsletters Puzzles Crime HER Contact us Jobs

Know your numbers

by Mark Gregory | May 21, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.

Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a stroke. In Arkansas, about 30 people are hospitalized because of the disease each day.

In 2020, 10,969 Arkansans suffered strokes and 1,684 died from the disease, giving the state the 10th-highest stroke death rate in the United States.

Those sobering facts come from the Arkansas Department of Health, in recognition that May is Stroke Awareness Month.

Health awareness hits closer to home for me, personally, in May because it's also High Blood Pressure Awareness Month. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a contributing risk for heart disease, according to Teresa Henson, Cooperative Extension Service specialist-program outreach coordinator for the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

I've lived with high blood pressure for well over the past 30 years. I've kept it managed through medication, diet and exercise, but it hasn't always been easy. I wound up in the hospital for an overnight stay years and years ago after it jumped up one evening and wouldn't come back down right away. I went through about a month of trying out different kinds of medications before my doctors landed on the right combination. One of the side effects of the medication is having my ankles swell up, but I'm loathe to try something new. But it's better than the alternative, believe me.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute encourages everyone to care for their heart and track their blood pressure numbers, Henson says. The recommended healthy blood pressure for adults is 120/80 millimeters of mercury or less. Blood pressure consistently above 130/80 millimeters of mercury increases your chances of heart disease, kidney disease, possible eye damage, stroke and dementia.

High blood pressure is considered a major stroke risk factor, according to the Department of Health, and the most important controllable risk factor for stroke. About 77% of people who have a first stroke have blood pressure higher than 140/90 mm Hg. An estimated 93 million Americans have hypertension.

Stroke, specifically, is the leading cause of disability and long-term care admission among working adults 65 years of age and younger in Arkansas, according to Dr. Bala Simon, the Health Department's deputy chief medical officer and state chronic disease director.

According to Dr. Simon, the good news is that most of these strokes are preventable with lifestyle modification that includes stopping smoking, eating a diet that is low in salt and includes more fruits and vegetables, regular exercise, and "good blood pressure control."

The Department of Health is urging the public to learn the warning signs of stroke, since bystanders often need to act fast in an emergency.

One way to do that is the B.E.F.A.S.T. acronym:

B -- Balance: Is there a sudden loss of balance or coordination?

E -- Eyes: Is there a sudden change in vision or trouble seeing?

F -- Face Drooping: Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.

A -- Arm Weakness: Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S -- Speech Difficulty: Is speech slurred, are they unable to speak, or are they hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence like, "The sky is blue." Is the sentence repeated correctly?

T -- Time to call 911: If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 911 and get them to the hospital immediately.

"Nearly half of Americans have high blood pressure and don't even know it; that is why it's called the 'silent killer,' meaning it doesn't cause symptoms but can cause damage to your body over time," Henson says. "It is vital to have regular checkups with your primary care provider to check your blood pressure numbers and understand what those numbers mean."

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute experts have recommendations for how to reach healthy blood pressure with The Heart Truth program. Visit to learn more.

You -- and your blood pressure -- will be glad that you did.

Print Headline: Know your numbers


Sponsor Content