Help for high blood pressure

Hypertension — commonly known as high blood pressure — is the leading cause of stroke and heart attack. And while the condition is controllable, it is also silent – and therefore deadly.

It’s also easy to check while at the doctor’s office, or even at the grocery or drug store, said Dr. Carolyn Eaton, a family medicine physician with Community Medicine Associates, the nonprofit physician group for University Health System. “The (blood pressure devices) in the stores aren’t bad — maybe a little on the high side for seniors,” but can indicate if you should follow up with your doctor, she said.

Stroke, heart attack and even increased risk for dementia are all tied to high blood pressure. And because of that link, she said, you can make a big impact on your odds of good health by managing blood pressure.

Andrew Garza, 66, didn’t know he had high blood pressure until he fell off the roof and hit his head. Turns out his head was OK, but the hypertension that his hospital visit revealed required long-term attention. That was a decade ago, and he regularly sees Dr. Carolyn Eaton to make sure he stays healthy. He also follows her advice.

“I’m doing a lot of walking,” Mr. Garza said. “I eat greens that I’ve never eaten before.”

His friends sometimes tease him about his health awareness, Mr. Garza said. “I tell them, ‘Why don’t you get checked?’ They say, ‘No, I’m healthy.’ I say, ‘You think you are.’ They make fun of me. They’re afraid of needles. I’m not.”

Mr. Garza laughed, but he’s aware of the need for health care for a sobering reason.

“My father, that I know of, he never saw a doctor in his life,” he said. “He passed away at 54. He had a stroke and never recovered. I already passed his age, and I’m going to keep going.”

Dr. Eaton tells Mr. Garza and many of her patients that the basics include a healthy, vegetable-heavy diet (like the DASH diet or Mediterranean diet) and exercise – but also stress management.

“A common cause (of hypertension) is a stressful job,” she said. Managing stress is important and also can be done through a healthy diet and exercise.

“One of the most important things is exercise. Simply walking is one of the best things you can do.”

To learn more about strokes and your risk, go to