Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. (Genesis 3:1)
A few of summers ago, while in my yard talking with a landscaper about changes I had in mind, I felt a strange weight against the outside of my right foot. I thought nothing of it at first but the sensation persisted, almost insistent if you will. I looked down and was startled to see a fat snake in the surrounding underbrush making himself quite comfortable against my foot. It appeared to be brownish and maybe four feet in length though, to the chagrin of some, I could not offer further details about its appearance. I wasted no time hauling my butt in the opposite direction screaming like a little girl. Usain Bolt would’ve had nothing on me that day! Were he the biting kind, I would be a fond memory by now. There was no warning – no rustling of leaves, no hissing, no telltale tracks in the dirt. Suddenly there he was and there I was.
At the time I lived in a heavily wooded area where, in retrospect, a snake would be inclined to hang out – lots of trees, underbrush, a creek nearby – just the kind of setting a subtle, crafty creature would comfortably carry out whatever dastardly deeds a subtle, crafty creature might be inclined to engage in.
Many of us live in an environment where another subtle, crafty killer is lurking biding its time waiting to strike unexpectedly. That killer is hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure. Long dubbed the “silent killer” its reputation is well deserved as it often strikes with devastating force and without warning. It is not uncommon to hear a loved one lament that “he was never sick a day in his life” never realizing that this killer had been quietly at work all along. Like the crafty serpent, it tends not to make its presence known until it’s too late. People are often skeptical when given the diagnosis since they usually feel just fine. I promise you that you cannot rely on how you feel to determine its presence. I have seen, on more than one occasion, patients come in with a blood pressure of 240/160 who felt perfectly fine!
So, where does this killer hang out? Like the snake, it’s in places where you might expect if you thought about it.
Families: Its presence in first-degree relatives (parents and siblings) increases one’s risk. If everybody in your family has it there is a good chance you will too.
Stress: In our busy lives with tight schedules, deadlines, increased responsibilities at work and at home, more month than money, many of us are at increased risk simply from the pressures of daily living that we have not yet learned to manage.
Habits and Behaviors: Alcohol has long been known to raise blood pressure. Smoking is also a big culprit in cardiovascular disease because of its effect on the lining of blood vessels. Our dietary habits also put us a risk with our increased reliance on processed and fast foods, which tend to be high in salt and fat among other things. Our fast-paced life styles have made what used to be the occasional treat (McDonald’s and the like) the mainstay of our diets.
Medications: Many non-prescription medicines, including some cold preparations, contain ingredients that may raise blood pressure. Other products, for example inhalers sold without prescription for the relief of asthma, should be avoided. Some herbal products and weight loss products are also risky. Just because something is “all natural” does not mean it is safe!
So, what should one’s blood pressure be? Recent guidelines target readings no greater than 120/80, though the goal should be even less in many cases. For diabetics and those with a history of heart disease, the target is definitely lower.
The bottom line is that you should be monitored by a competent health care professional – not simply by that little machine at the pharmacy! It only takes a few minutes and could prevent a lot of hardship and heartache. Talk to your doctor; that’s what they’re there for. We don’t mind. Really!
I haven’t seen any more snakes in my yard, but that doesn’t keep me from being on the lookout. You should be too. God bless.