Football Hall of Fame Coach Don Shula with Dr. Elijah Saunders.
Football Hall of Famer and former Baltimore Colts player and coach Don Shula recently appeared as a special guest for a free blood pressure screening event at the University of Maryland Medical Center to stress the importance of high blood pressure awareness.
“I feel that I’m the right guy to talk about high blood pressure awareness because I have hypertension myself and I think it’s important to be diagnosed,” said Shula. “One in three adults in the U.S. has high blood pressure, and more than one-third of them don't know they have it.”
According to the American Heart Association, 72 million Americans age 20 and older have high blood pressure. It’s often called the silent killer, because it usually does not cause symptoms.
At the event, Shula spoke about the impact high blood pressure has had on his life and discussed the steps he has taken to control his high blood pressure, including taking medication and following a healthier lifestyle.
Shula is currently a spokesman for a national campaign to raise awareness about the importance of managing high blood pressure. He coached the Baltimore Colts from 1963 to 1969 and the Miami Dolphins from 1970 to 1995. He also holds records for the most career wins (347), and more Super Bowl appearances than any other coach (six). He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1997.
What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk
Elijah Saunders M.D., a cardiologist and hypertension expert at the University of Maryland Medical Center and a professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, stressed that it’s important to know your blood pressure numbers -- not just so high blood pressure can be treated early, but also so those with pre-hypertension can start making lifestyle changes.
Pre-hypertension is defined as having a blood pressure between 120/80 mmHg and 139/89 mmHg. This means that even if you don't have high blood pressure now, you are likely to develop it in the future.
“During this pre-hypertension phase we don’t treat with drugs but that category has a high risk of getting high blood pressure and having complications in the future so if that individual is advised in certain lifestyle modifications, then that group can either prevent hypertension or delay the onset of hypertension,” said Dr. Saunders.
Those lifestyle changes include:
Dr. Saunders says that high blood pressure is “a big problem” in the United States. “It’s the most common risk factor for cardiovascular disease, which is the No. 1 cause of death. It’s more common than diabetes and cholesterol,” Saunders said. “The only thing it’s not more common than is obesity, which is the most common risk factor. But high blood pressure is certainly the most common of the traditional cardiovascular risk factors.”
Furthermore, Saunders points out, “If you have normal blood pressure at age 55, you have a 90 percent chance of getting high blood pressure before you die. So you might say everybody’s going to get it. If you’re African American you’re going to get it earlier and you have a [two times] greater chance of getting it.”
Shula offers this advice to those who are diagnosed with high blood pressure: “Once you find out, you have to make sure you get 24-hour protection because your blood pressure changes at different times during the day.
By Michelle W. Murray