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Harlem Word: Harmon Moats talks about why knowing what your blood pressure can lower your risk of having a stroke

Harmon Moats, stroke educator for New York Presbyterian's Neurological Institute, is all about simple changes that make big differences in people's lives. Having high blood pressure increases your chances of having a stroke, and many people don't know how high their blood pressure is.Eating healthier and exercising more are two ways to lower your blood pressure, but Harmon thinks that the best thing you can do to lower your blood pressure is to regularly take your blood pressure medication.

Q: Why is it important for people to know how high their blood pressure is?

A: Having high blood pressure increases your chances of having a stroke. You can lower your blood pressure several ways-one of those is by taking medication. It's important that you know how high your blood pressure is so you can begin to reduce your blood pressure right away. You should be in the habit of checking your blood pressure regularly because you can have normal blood pressure one day, and then the next have high blood pressure. It just pops up on you.

For example, I met a man in his mid-50s who was a picture of health. He rode his bike everyday and swam twice a day. He had zero body fat on him. I took his blood pressure and it was 170/95 which is very high. He insisted I was wrong because last time he checked it was low. The man was shocked when a registered nurse confirmed he had high blood pressure--he had no idea it was so high!

Q: Where can you get your blood pressure checked?

A: There are many places you can get it checked for free.  Those places include health fairs, free standing blood pressure screening tables at malls or visiting nurses.

Q: What is a normal blood pressure range?

A: We say that you want to keep your blood pressure around 120/80. You definitely don't want the first/top number above 130 or 135. For each person, "normal" varies. This is why it's important to check your blood pressure regularly so you know what normal is for you.

Q: Can people check their blood pressure themselves if they don't have a doctor?

A: Absolutely. Every person should have their own blood pressure monitoring machine at home. Just like every household has knives, forks, and screwdrivers, it should also have a blood pressure machine. Whether you think it is expensive depends on what your budget is. You can get one for well under a hundred dollars-but it's well worth every penny. It's a good way for people to take control of their health.

Q: How do you use home blood pressure machines? Are they easy to use?

A: They are easy to use as they are automated. All you do is put a cuff on your arm and press a button.

If you want to know if your blood pressure machine is reading your blood pressure correctly, take it to a doctor and have the doctor test your blood pressure with the machine and then immediately after with a regular blood pressure cuff. If the two numbers are within 2-4 points of each other, then you're good.

Harlem Word is a series of interviews with Northern Manhattan health experts, written by HHPC and reviewed by our Health Advisory Board.

1 Comment

hi, this is really very good information you have shared with us. Thanks for sharing this with me.

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