By Leah Asmelash
“Today, the message is check, check, check your blood pressure,” said Rep. Becky Carney, an eight-term legislator who had suffered sudden cardiac death in her legislative office in 2009.
Carney, who has since been a champion for heart health, was making introductory comments to open a high blood pressure awareness day at the North Carolina General Assembly on Wednesday.
Organizers encouraged everyone at the legislative complex to check their blood pressure for free.
Almost thirty percent of all people dying in North Carolina have cardiovascular disease, which includes hypertension. People often have no overt symptoms of high blood pressure, which makes regular blood pressure checks important.
“Blood pressure is the single, most important indicator of heart disease and stroke,” said Brian Forrest, a hypertension specialist.
He said that people must not only check their blood pressure regularly and know what it is, but work to lower it to reduce the risk of stroke or heart disease.
Anna Bess Brown, executive director of Justus-Warren Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention task force, organized the event to both raise awareness of the dangers of hypertension, “the silent killer,” and to show support for House Bill 411.
The new bill, which has passed the state House of Representatives and is currently in the Senate, would make the third Wednesday in May Hypertension Awareness Day. The task force introduced the bill to put hypertension on people’s radar and allow the task force to do awareness days every year.
Brown was moved to action when she learned that people who had strokes did not realize the relationship between stroke and high blood pressure.
“It just astounded me,” Brown said. “Here they are, they’ve had a stroke, they’re under doctors’ care and they still don’t understand the connection.”
That’s what Wednesday’s event aimed to do: help people with high blood pressure understand the condition’s health implications. That’s what HB 411 aims to do, too.
“A lot of people just think, ‘Oh, if I’m taking medication, you know, I’m okay,’” Brown said. “But no, you need to monitor it, you need to take some steps to stop smoking, or increase your physical activity, eat better. There are things you can do.”