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Health officials urge blood pressure screenings

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Health officials are campaigning to increase awareness of high blood pressure.

The Georgia Department of Community Health is urging area residents to take part in its state-wide "Know Your Numbers" campaign, this month, which is also National High Blood Pressure Education Month.

"Knowing your numbers is the first step to good heart health, which is why I recommend that all Georgians -- young and old -- visit their doctor regularly to ensure these numbers remain healthy," said Dr. M. Rony Francois, director of the Community Health Department's Division of Public Health.

Francois said high blood pressure, also referred to as hypertension, increases the risk for cardiovascular diseases, like heart disease and stroke, and affects about 30 percent of adults in Georgia.

Individuals with a family history of high blood pressure may be at a greater risk for developing the malady, according to Francois, who urges those individuals, and those who suffer from high blood pressure, to work with their doctors and develop a plan to manage the problem, with the help of prescribed medications, as well as regular physical activity and good nutrition.

"It's called a silent killer," added Vicky Ayers, a registered nurse and community educator at Henry Medical Center in Stockbridge. "Most of the time, people aren't aware that their blood pressure is elevated."

Ayers said there are no typical outward symptoms of high blood pressure, which leaves individuals at higher risks for stroke or heart attack. "It's amazing how we can find someone who's just walking around a Wal-Mart and don't realize they are at high risk," she said.

Ayers will be administering free blood pressure screenings and stroke-risk assessments Thursday, at the Wal-Mart Supercenter, at 135 Willow Lane in McDonough. She will give free screenings and assessments again at the store on May 20, and will be available from 1 to 5 p.m., on both dates.

"There are many people who, for whatever reasons, they have certain obstacles to health care," Ayers said. "That's what I'm there for, to try to help and pick up on some problems that they can follow-up on.

"There are two good ways to control your blood pressure," she said. "Ultimately, a healthy diet, and exercise and weight control, are ways that they can reduce their risk of having a heart attack or stroke."

Residents, officials said, may be able to get free blood pressure checks at their county health department, fire department and pharmacy.