Health leaders report 1 in 3 adults in the Springfield community suffers from high blood pressure

Published: Feb. 7, 2023 at 1:41 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 8, 2023 at 6:02 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (Edited News Release/KY3) - In the Springfield Community (Greene, Christian, and Webster Counties), more than 31% of adults have high blood pressure, and nearly 36% have high cholesterol.

The Springfield-Greene County Health Department released the 2022 Community Health Needs Assessment.

Risk factors like these, as well as poor physical health and obesity, increase the likelihood that a person will develop and die from heart disease or a related complication, such as a stroke. Already in Greene County, 7.2% of adults have coronary heart disease, compared to similar rates for Missouri, 7.5%, and the United States, 6.9%.

”I do have high blood pressure and high cholesterol,” said Peggy Mullins, the widow of legendary country songwriter Johnny Mullins who composed music for the likes of Loretta Lynn and Porter Wagner.

During an interview on Wednesday at Springfield’s Southside Senior Center the 86 year-old Mullins said she is still working to keep her high blood pressure and cholesterol level under control after her health problems started in the 1990′s because of stress.

“At the time it started my mother had dementia and my husband was coming down with it. So yeah, there was a lot of stress,” Peggy explained. “I take a pill for high blood pressure every morning and every night. As for the high cholesterol my doctor put me on a diet just before the pandemic with no potatoes, no white bread and no pasta and that’s kept it down.”

Mullins also pointed out that she’s paying attention to her stress levels.

“I like to go for a walk or listen to some music and don’t do things that will make me angry,” she said. “I find talking with somebody or listening to music is the best thing of all.”

“We do know that high stress people do have increased risk of heart disease,” said Dr. Marc Reitzner, a CoxHealth a Cardiology Physician Assistant. “It just increases our inflammatory response and can cause a lack of rest and lack of activity because of it.”

And stress is just one of several contributing factors to high blood pressure.

“Obesity is certainly one of those. A sedentary or low activity lifestyle is another,” said Mercy Family Medicine Specialist Dr. David Barbe. “Smoking is certainly high on the list. There are 800,000 people in this country who die each year from heart disease. The common denominator among all of those is high blood pressure. The longer your blood pressure is high and the higher it is, the more stress it puts on the heart and the arteries. We used to call high blood pressure ‘The Silent Killer’ because most people simply don’t know they have it. You don’t feel it.”

That’s why it’s a good idea to get your own blood pressure cuff and check it on a regular basis.

So what numbers are considered high?

“We used to say 140/90 was high blood pressure,” Barbe said. “We know now that’s too high. We really target ideal blood pressure at about 120/70. And our recommendation is if your top number is very often over 130 it’s time to at least have a conversation with your doctor.”

So how can you keep your blood pressure from getting out of control?

The National Institutes of Health has published a list of 28 ways to work toward a healthy heart. Some ideas include:

  • Getting your blood pressure checked.
  • Walking an extra 15 minutes.
  • Planning meals and snacks that are heart-healthy.
  • Finding ways to reduce stress in your everyday life.
  • Calling a relative to ask about your family health history.
  • Taking steps to quit smoking.
  • Talking to your doctor about your heart health.

Reitzner offered this observation from his time as a physician.

“The patients I’ve seen that are 90 years-old and older who are independent and active, I always question them about what they do,” Reitzner explained. “And the answer is they’re always active. They’re walking, biking and their activity doesn’t necessarily have to be high-intensity. It’s just doing some kind of regular activity.”

“Even 15-to-30 minutes of walking a day can make a major difference in your long-term heart health,” Barbe said.

“The biggest investment you can make not only for your health but for your pocketbook is focusing on your own health,” Reitzner added. “If you can prevent things now, it definitely saves you a lot of money later.”

And it can also save your life.

More information about heart disease and tips for living a heart-healthy lifestyle can be found on the American Heart Month website and the Springfield-Greene County Health Department’s social media account through February.

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