Healthy Living: Blood pressure scare prompts Tacoma woman to start walking

February is heart health month and while heart disease is the number one killer each year of men and women, there is a lot we can do to lower our risk.  That starts with yearly well check visits to the doctors office to learn your numbers, including blood pressure, cholesterol, BMI and blood sugar.  Take blood pressure for example.  It's often referred to as the silent killer because in many cases, people don't know they're at risk until something bad happens.

As a fitness instructor, Paula Battle looks like the picture of perfect health and sounds like it to.  That wasn't always the case.  In 2009, Paula got a wake up call.

"Had a big meeting at work one day," Paula said.  "During the time of meeting I was speaking (and) I felt a large pain in the back of my head."

Paula was rushed to the hospital where doctors discovered her blood pressure had climbed dangerously high.

"Now I know why they call high blood pressure the silent killer," Paula said.

New guidelines from the American Heart Association now define high blood pressure, or hypertension as anything above 130 over 80.

Since Paula hadn't been to her doctor for regular check-ups, the wife and mother didn't know she was at risk.

"It was a realization that I did need to invest in my health if I wanted to be around," Paula said.

Paula changed her diet, eating less salt and sugar.  She also started walking.

"I got two feet," Paula told Q13.  "Anybody can walk, so I set out on a journey."

She took the stairs.  She parked further away.  Paula walked everywhere she could.  Less than three weeks after that trip to the hospital, and without taking any medication, Paula's blood pressure started coming down.

"I wake up in the morning and no longer need coffee to get me to work everyday," Paula said.  "I get up with a new outlook on life, an appreciation for everything."

Paula says she's happier adding that walking and eating right eventually led to an exercise regime.  She's now a certified fitness instructor and teaches classes each week in Tacoma.

For Paula, moving is medicine.  Her advice for others at risk for heart disease and people like her who may not even know they are is simple... take it one step at a time.

"Make little small lifestyle changes.  Start walking.  Anyone can do it.  Find something that keeps you active and keeps you moving," Paula said.

According to the American Heart Association, high blood pressure if left unchecked can lead to a stroke, heart attack and heart failure among other health problems.  In some cases, medication may be necessary to control high blood pressure.  In Paula's case, changing her lifestyle naturally lowered her blood pressure and changed her life for the better.

To learn more about heart disease and steps to lower your risk, click here