Managing Blood Pressure After a Health Scare: One Woman’s Story

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Most people will find out they have high blood pressure during an annual visit with their doctor. Springfield resident Yvonne Scott, 63, found out unexpectedly while she was at work more than ten years ago.

“I was about 50 years old when I first started experiencing head pain and discomfort,” says Yvonne, who worked for a behavioral health direct care specialist at the time. “I felt the symptoms mostly in my head, with lots of headaches.” Yvonne did her best to live with the pain, but after a week or two she knew something was off.

A High Blood Pressure Emergency

“I was at work at the time and extra felt dizzy and lightheaded,” she explains, “so much that I had to call 911 and go to the hospital and there I spent the night.”

When Yvonne arrived at Baystate Medical Center, her care team was very concerned with lowering her blood pressure.

“I was very scared when I found out that I had high blood pressure,” says Yvonne. “The care team at Baystate Medical Center listened to me about the pain I was feeling in my head and ensured I was comfortable. I was unknowingly at very high risk – I could’ve easily had a stroke or a heart attack at any time. I think that excessive stress and being overworked significantly contributed to my high blood pressure.”

“Sustained elevated blood pressure is a cause for heart attacks, strokes, and kidney failure, as well as other conditions,” says Dr. Paul Pirraglia, Chief, Division of General Internal Medicine at Baystate Health. “Control of blood pressure has been very clearly shown to reduce the risk of these [conditions].”

Yvonne Scott smiling with mouth closed while chopping peppers in kitchen

Treating High Blood Pressure

With four children and a love for traveling abroad (she has been to London, Paris, Germany, and Prague), Yvonne has learned to take better care of herself so she may enjoy what life has to offer, which includes keeping her blood pressure under control.

“l changed my diet to include no fried foods. I now bake all my foods, including chicken and fish, and eat lots of veggies and drink water with every meal. l exercise three times a week at my physical therapy appointments. In a typical visit, I do strengthening and conditioning exercises that they give me and sometimes do them at home afterwards. I am also sure to take my medication on time every day. My doctors have adjusted my blood pressure medicines accordingly.”

“A healthy lifestyle—managing weight, limiting salt intake, regular cardiovascular exercise, stress management—helps control blood pressure as do prescribed medications,” adds Dr. Pirraglia. “Treatment works to markedly lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure.”

Take Control of Your Blood Pressure

Yvonne is an advocate for healthy blood pressure and wants to share her story so that others won’t have to experience such a health scare themselves.

“I think everyone should take high blood pressure seriously. It's your health, so make sure you consider its importance. If you don’t care for your health, it may cause irreversible damage later on in life.”

“Your healthcare providers can advise on lifestyle changes, prescribe medications, and help monitor blood pressure readings, but the key part is what our patients do with these,” concludes Dr. Pirraglia. “By the time one feels the bad effects blood pressure causes (for instance, has a heart attack), the damage is already done. The key thing is prevention!”

Learn more about managing your blood pressure, and reach out to your doctor to get your blood pressure checked.

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