3 On Your Side Investigates: Numbers Don’t Lie

Published: Feb. 20, 2020 at 7:16 AM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Vernita Wilson of Clinton has a close relationship with her daughter Erin. The two travel together and enjoy each other’s company. So one day back in December, when Wilson didn’t feel quite right, her daughter took notice.

“One Sunday after going to a football game, I had an incredibly terrible headache. That prompted me to check my blood pressure, something that I’ve ever had an issue with before. I discovered it was 189 over 98,” said Wilson. Those are surprisingly high numbers for an otherwise healthy woman in her mid 40′s.

After visiting her doctor the next day, Wilson posted on social media, “Please pay attention to your bodies! Yesterday I had the worst headache ever. Diagnosis: Stage two hypertension.”

In a nutshell, it’s a diagnosis of high blood pressure. Wilson had to come to terms with the news.

“I was stunned, because that’s not something I have had to concern myself with on a day to day basis," she said.

The busy account executive says she always ate well, but had become sedentary over the years, and in hindsight she only had one warning sign which is easy to shrug off.

“I was tired more easily, I was lethargic, especially after doing routine things that normally wouldn’t tire me at all,” Wilson said.

We talked to Dr. Myrna Alexander Nickens, Clinical Cardiologist at University of Mississippi Medical Center.

“It’s a gradual onset. That person may start tending to slow down a little bit and they may not realize that they’re slowing down,” Dr. Nickens explained.

If you’re easily fatigued, don’t ignore it, she said.

Dr. Nickens is also the Director of the Women’s Heart Center at UMMC. We asked her why such a center is needed.

“It’s important because women were thought not to have heart disease, so it was not only to educate our patients but to educate our colleagues that heart disease affects women the same as men, but even more,” she said.

The facts are out there. You can find them on the Go Red For Women website: heart disease is a killer that strikes more women than men, and heart disease affects women of all ages.

Hypertension is often called a silent killer because it sneaks up on you.

When women don’t get their blood pressure under control, many problems can occur. Here are four big ones: cardiovascular disease, which is a large umbrella of complications related to the heart and arteries. Aortic dissection, which is a tear in the wall of the major artery. Renal disease, a disease of the kidneys, or stroke, a lack of blood flow to the brain.

Young people aren’t out of the woods either. Dr. Nickens said there are many reasons why.

“Our children are doing a lot of sitting and electronics, and those children will be adults, and we’re seeing a lot more heart disease in our 20 to 40 year olds than we did maybe 20 years ago,” she said.

To avoid hypertension or something worse, Dr. Nickens recommends regular checks with a doctor beginning in your 20′s, eating more at home to avoid excess sodium and regular exercise.

Wilson has been doing just that.

“I’ve taken advantage of the health care plan we’re paying for at the Baptist HealthPlex,” she said. “To walk 30 minutes to an hour, getting cardio in.”

She’s also been taking blood pressure medication and drinking lots of water, her blood pressure has dropped.

What are your risk factors for heart disease? Some can be controlled, and some can’t. Click here to get an overview.

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