Eight years ago, Tina Johnson learned she had high blood pressure and was pre-diabetic during a routine physical. “I was eating fast food and drinking sodas several times a week,” said the former VCU track athlete. The doctor said, “I could put you on medication, but I’m not going to. I’m giving you three months to get your health in order.”
Johnson did just that. Determined to avoid taking pills, she started drinking more water, eating whole foods and returned to her favorite form of exercise, running. Through lifestyle changes, she lost weight, her numbers went back to normal, and she overall felt better. Inspired by her success, Johnson became a personal trainer and exclaims, “If I can do this for me, I can do this for others.” In addition to helping others achieve a healthy lifestyle, Johnson was chosen this year as a spokeswoman for the association’s Go Red For Women campaign in Central Virginia.
Fellow “heart sister” and Go Red For Women Ambassador, Beverly Hatcher, is working alongside Johnson to share her story and spread awareness about the dangers of high blood pressure. A U.S Army Veteran, Hatcher was diagnosed with high blood pressure when she entered the military in her 20’s. Although she was compliant with taking her blood pressure medication, Hatcher experienced cardiac issues 30 years later and underwent open heart surgery last year. Little did she know that her condition was causing a build-up of plaque in the arteries over the years. In hindsight, Hatcher says, “In addition to taking my medication, I should have been more mindful of my sodium intake and exercised more.”
Johnson and Hatcher are encouraging as many people as possible to get their blood pressure checked this May, which is National High Blood Pressure Education Month, and to review the categories at heart.org/bplevels to understand what your numbers mean.