When the agenda for my meeting listed the main speaker addressing the importance of blood pressure, I was less than enthusiastic. Let me be the first to admit that I learned so much new information, that I made some immediate changes in my own personal health care habits! So I am inspired to share this information with you . . .

Blood pressure is also known as hypertension, and abbreviated as HTN or HBP. The readings are expressed like a fraction, such as 116/68. What these numbers measure is the force of circulating blood that presses against the walls of the blood vessels. The harder the heart pumps, and the less flexible your arteries become, the higher the blood pressure goes.

Management of blood pressure readings can lower the risk of having a stroke by 35 – 40 percent; and it can lower the risk of having a heart attack or developing congestive heart failure by 15 – 25 percent! Those are significant numbers! Blood pressure readings really mean something personal!

Additionally, the blood test that measures each factor of the cholesterol group has shown that by lowering cholesterol levels, especially the one known as LDL, lowers the risk of all cardiovascular diseases. The use of prescription drugs to lower cholesterol will reduce the risk of accumulating plaque in the arteries and thereby reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases by 40 percent. Taking a low-dose aspirin every day, or even every other day, also reduces risk of stroke and heart disease by 21 percent.

One significant indicator of various health measurements is mortality, or cause of death.

Eighty percent of mortality is a result of lifestyle choices, such as maintaining healthy body weight, eating a healthy diet, avoiding tobacco smoke, daily exercise, and using prescription drugs as ordered by your physician. Twenty percent of mortality statistics involve genetics, aging, and/or stress.

With newly-proven research in the safety and benefits of blood pressure control now has set the normal, recommended rate as LESS THAN 120/80. There is further categorization to reflect extent and severity of blood pressure as follows:


Blood Pressure Category

Systolic reading/top number

Diastolic reading/bottom number


Less than 120

Less than 80


120 – 139

80 - 89

Stage 1 hypertension

140 - 159

90 - 99

Stage 2 hypertension

160 – 179

100 - 109

Hypertensive crisis

180 or greater

110 or greater

Be mindful of the fact that a single reading of blood pressure does NOT indicate an accurate average reading! There are many variables in the blood pressure readings; your physician is not likely to make a diagnosis of hypertension or start medications for you until he or she has several readings, over a period of time, in various circumstances.

Your parish nurse sponsors Wellness Sunday, generally the second Sunday of each month. Of course, we want you to be 'well' every Sunday. But on the second Sunday of the month, there is an opportunity to have the nurse check your blood pressure and/or for consultation on this, or other personal health concerns. Have you noticed that the nurse now uses a new state-of-the-art electronic wrist blood pressure monitor for your convenience? The advantage of a wrist monitor is that you need not worry about your sleeves interfering with an accurate reading; nor does the reading depend on the hearing acuity of the nurse.

Be well,
Dorothy Ellerbroek, RN, parish nurse

Sources of information for this article: Dr Stephen Battista, MD, interventional cardiology, U of M Heart Care Edina, lecture given 05/05/2016; American Heart Association, www.heart.org 08/05/2016; and Healthy Heart for Life, Mayo Clinic, 2012.