High blood pressure has long been characterized a silent killer. Sufferers often experience no symptoms or only minor ones, such as headaches, dizziness or blurred vision, until they suffer a stroke or heart attack seemingly out of the blue.
Make no mistake. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a major risk factor for heart disease, kidney disease and congestive heart failure as well as the chief risk factor for stroke, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
While normal blood pressure is a systolic reading of less than 120 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and a diastolic reading of less than 80 mm Hg, high blood pressure is a systolic reading of 140 mm Hg or higher, or a diastolic reading of 90 mm Hg or higher.
NIH says about 50 million Americans — one in four adults — have high blood pressure and its prevalence increases sharply with age. The condition affects only about 3% of those from age 18 to 24 but about 70% of those 75 and older.
Fortunately, high blood pressure is highly treatable and can be brought under control with simple lifestyle changes and well-tolerated medications. Hardly a case of the cure being worse than the sickness, the trick with treating hypertension is to get those afflicted to just know and accept they need treatment.
Helping the nation's long-haul truck drivers, many of whom fit the hypertension risk profile of being overweight and sedentary, learn about blood pressure and how to control it is the goal of a new — and free — educational/motivational program sponsored by Novartis Pharmaceutical Corp.
Dubbed “BP (Blood Pressure) Downshift,” it's specifically aimed at helping truck drivers get their blood pressure under control.
Novartis says it came up with the program in response to recent Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) guidelines that professional truck drivers must have a blood pressure of 140/90mm Hg or below — instead of the 160/90mm Hg limit previously allowed to maintain a CDL.
According to Novartis research, 75% of driver deaths are due to high blood pressure and heart-related diseases. What's more, nearly 40% of commercial motor vehicle drivers who have worked for over 20 years have hypertension — but only a third know they have it and receive adequate treatment.
“The BP Downshift program was created to offer drivers the health and lifestyle information they need to better manage their high blood pressure,” notes Marjorie Gatlin, MD, Novartis' vp of cardiovascular and metabolic clinical development & medical affairs. “It is not that easy for anyone to get their blood pressure under control. But we especially want to help this population for whom controlling blood pressure means complying with federal regulations and keeping their jobs.”
Drivers who participate in BP Downshift will receive a series of four mailings of support resources to help them manage their blood pressure including:
BP Downshift brochure that explains high blood pressure, what drivers can do about it and how it can affect their CDL
Blood Pressure Wallet Diary that provides tips and a tool to track blood pressure readings
Blood pressure audio CD that explains high blood pressure and uses real-life experiences to show how it can be managed
- Chart stickers for driver to share with healthcare professionals to identify them as a CDL holder in their medical chart and as someone needing to meet specific blood pressure goals
Drivers can enroll in the program at www.drivershealth.com or by calling toll-free 877-2-DOWNSHIFT.