Blood Pressure and Stroke: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

This presentation for the Stroke Education Series was presented by Craig Shipley, APRN-NP of the University of Kansas Health System on Blood Pressure and Stroke. Thank you to The University of Kansas Health System for partnering with the American Stroke Foundation for the Stroke Education Series.

What is Blood Pressure? (01:12-08:41)

High blood pressure or hypertension was first known as “hard pulse disease”. Blood pressure is the pressure on the walls of the arteries when the heart is beating and at rest. A normal blood pressure is 120/80. The top number, in this example 120, is the systolic blood pressure. This is the highest level your blood pressure reaches when your heart beats. The bottom number, 80, is the diastolic blood pressure. This is the lowest level your blood pressure reaches when your heart relaxes between beats.

The higher your blood pressure, the higher the risk is for health problems. Having a blood pressure of 135/85 may be normal for one person, but this doubles their risk for heart attack or stroke when compared to someone with a reading of 115/75.

In addition to heart attack or stroke, high blood pressure can also lead to heart disease or failure, kidney failure, dementia, vision problems, damage to artery walls, and sleep disturbance.

Risk factors for Stroke (08:52-11:23)

Some risk factors are genetic, like race and genetics. Others can be changed, like high blood pressure and smoking. Other lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk for stroke include lowering your cholesterol, losing weight, being active, having a healthy diet, and reducing sleep apnea.

Blood Pressure Medications (11:30-22:15)

There are several different classes of blood pressure medications. Diuretics reduce blood pressure by reducing the circulating fluid volume by promoting the production of urine. Beta-blockers are medications that weaken the effects of stress hormones like epinephrine. Calcium channel blockers relax large blood vessel walls. ACE inhibitors, or angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors, block angiotensin from causing blood vessel walls to constrict. Finally ARBS, or angiotensin II receptor blockers, relax the blood vessel walls by preventing the binding of angiotensin II.

Self Management Tips (22:17-27:02)

In addition to using medication to lower blood pressure, there are lifestyle changes you can make to lower your blood pressure. These include exercise, losing weight, stopping smoking, eating healthier, reducing salt intake, monitoring your blood pressure daily, and following up with your doctor regularly.

BE FAST (27:03-29:24)

If you believe that someone you know is currently having a stroke, it is important to BE FAST. This stands for balance, eyes, face, arms, speech, and time. If you notice changes in their ability to walk or sit (balance), vision problems (eyes), a side of their face drooping, weakness or numbness in their arm, unclear or slurred speech, then it is time to call 911 and get them to the hospital. Knowing this acronym, as well as managing your blood pressure and cholesterol, making lifestyle changes to prevent another stroke from occurring if you have already had one, and understanding that time is key will help you and your loved ones be able to reduce your risk for stroke.