Are students ignoring high blood pressure?

Hypertension is not a frequently used word among young adults. College students hear about high blood pressure and think it is no big deal, and they ignore the silent killer known as high blood pressure.

After giving birth, my sister had severe headaches and stiff neck; she was quickly diagnosed with postpartum preeclampsia. According to the Mayo Clinic, postpartum preeclampsia “is a rare condition that occurs when you have high blood pressure and excess protein in your urine soon after childbirth. 

The ideal blood pressure should range around 120/80, but my sister’s blood pressure peaked at 200/110. She was at risk of suffering a stroke, kidney disease, loss of vision, dementia and heart disease.

I went and got my blood pressure checked on campus following her diagnosis, and my results were 140/80. I credited my results to my poor diet, lack of exercise and stress. My score was high, and I was ignoring my unhealthy tendencies for too long. 

My mother always stressed to me and my family that we need to take care of ourselves. She would stop us randomly and check our blood pressure. I always felt that hypertension was only an issue for middle-aged adults. Although my sister’s sickness was related to childbirth, it helped me realize that young adults must pay closer attention to hypertension. 

The American Heart Association reported that “just half of 6.7 million young adults with high blood pressure were treated in 2013-2014 in the United States… 40 percent got their blood pressure under control.”

Jonasia Robinson is 23 years old, and she admits to not managing her blood pressure that well.

“I check my blood pressure whenever I go to the doctors, but I don’t really do much to manage it. I eat kind of bad and I am too busy to work out,” Robinson said. “I know it is important. It runs in my family, so I need to do better.”

Tony Price Jr. is a health and wellness coordinator in the Office of Employee Development and Wellness Services and doctoral student in the School of Public Health. Price said it is important to raise awareness on hypertension for young adults “because it is never too early to know how healthy you can be.”

“And especially given a lot of stressors and rivers students go through. Whether it be your personal life, your student life, grades, whatever, those different stressors can play a role in your health,” Price said. “Secondarily, as an African American, it is also very important because we are also predisposed to a lot of health conditions. So, for us, it is particularly important that we stay ahead of the curve and don’t get behind on our health. Yes, prevention is critical.”

The problem with staying ahead of the curve is that I am afraid to hear about my health. I have a lot of unhealthy habits, so I know the results won’t be ideal. In addition, found that nearly 31% of young black adults have high blood pressure, so I am at an increased risk of heart disease. 

A person won’t know how to properly manage their health unless he or she is aware of their condition. That is why my visit was important. Although I had high blood pressure, Price was able to explain the potential causes and offered some tips for healthy habits.

“A good approach is a good diet and engaging in regular physical activities. Those two things are going to be the cornerstones of helping manage a lot of chronic conditions,” Price said. “Mental health, stress plays a huge factor in a lot of our health indicators, so if you have a properly balanced diet, you work out three to five times a week and you try to mitigate a lot of the stressors that you come across every day, that will go a long way towards helping improve your numbers.”

Every first Thursday of the month at 25 Park Place and at the Urban Life Building, the Office of Employee Development and Wellness Services holds health screening for faculty, staff and students. I strongly encourage every student and staff to get checked up and prevent the silent killer from doing more damage.