All About Blood Pressure
Hometown: Bronx, New York
Occupation: Executive assistant at a media company
Her highest numbers: 190/120
"I was a walking stroke." Tisha Dixon-Williams isn't exaggerating. Four years ago, when she experienced bouts of dizziness and blurry vision for a few days, she paid a visit to her family doctor. That decision probably saved her life: He discovered her blood pressure was a staggering 190/120.
Her physician immediately treated her with blood pressure medication. "He told me, 'If this doesn't work, you're going to the hospital,'" recalls Dixon-Williams, who had just celebrated her 31st birthday. "I was terrified. When you're young, you think you're invincible and that something like this could never happen to you."
Although she had a penchant for junk food, she was otherwise in good shape. But Dixon-Williams discovered that high blood pressure can run in families, especially among African Americans. Her grandmother had a history of heart disease, her father had recently had a heart attack, and her mother had been diagnosed with hypertension at age 33.
In addition to taking medication, Dixon-Williams made some changes in her everyday routines. She stepped up her exercise program and decided to lose some weight. She started ballroom dancing three times a week. "It was important to do something I loved so I'd stick with it because I get bored easily," says Dixon-Williams, who lost about 20 pounds. She's also more vigilant about her diet, checks food labels for salt content, and has mostly given up fast food. Now her blood pressure is in the normal range. "It's better to be proactive," she says, "because heart disease is preventable."