John McMillin: Stroke, high blood pressure no laughing matter

John McMillin • Updated Jun 25, 2018 at 8:00 AM

The United Way of Wilson County and the Upper Cumberland would like you to know that high blood pressure is one of the leading causes of stroke and is often the first domino in a chain leading to devastating consequences, like heart attack, stroke, kidney disease and more. 

Less than half of the 86 million Americans with high blood pressure have it under control. Another factor in this equation is that 16 percent of the people with high blood pressure are completely unaware they have the symptomless silent killer. 

Were you aware that 80 percent of all strokes could be largely prevented? Imagine how many mothers we could save by doing a few more things than just homework. Were you also aware that one in three adults in the U.S. has high blood pressure? 

Stroke is with us on a daily basis. In fact, every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a stroke. Every year, almost as many Americans have a stroke as a heart attack. At the same time, strokes cause more than 133,000 deaths annually. Sadly, after years of becoming less of a threat, strokes are on the rise and stroke deaths are now up by 3 percent. 

The good news is that 80 percent of strokes are preventable, and high blood pressure is the most important risk factor for stroke that can be controlled. Most people who have a first stroke have high blood pressure. 

Stoke, too, is largely treatable. In fact, the faster a stroke is treated, the more likely the patient is to recover. 

You should know that stroke patients who are treated with the clot-busting drug within 90 minutes of first symptoms are almost three times more likely to recover with little or no disability. 

So what are the signs of a stroke? Although they vary, there are some symptoms that typically arise suddenly and most commonly on one side of the body. These symptoms may include numbness, weakness, tingling or vision loss or changes. 

All this hits close to home because I, too, deal with HBP. I’m somewhat lucky in that my high blood pressure is treatable. I take half a tablet of medication daily. 

In fact, my doctor tells me that I could probably “cure” myself of this all together if I would do something as radical as exercise every day. Imagine that. I imagine patients like me probably frustrate him enough to give him a stroke.

John McMillin is president of United Way of Wilson County and the Upper Cumberland. Email him at john@givetouwwc.org.


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