The gulf south leads the nation in people having high blood pressure, and that translates into a high rate of strokes and heart disease.
A lifestyle, with diabetes, smoking, eating too much salt and fats, and not exercising, is to blame.
Now people with uncontrollable hypertension may have the chance to join a study that looks at a new way of treating high blood pressure.
Belinda Carver has come from her home, in West Monroe to Ochsner in Metairie, hoping that a medical study will change her health and the course of her life.
"I've pretty much tried just about everything, conventional medication combinations, also treatments that I've tried over the years," said Carver.
At 52, she has uncontrollable high blood pressure. It was discovered on a routine exam eight years ago. She feels fine because hypertension, as it is called, has no noticeable symptoms. That is why it is called the silent killer.
"Everyday, that high blood pressure inside your arteries, is slowly damaging the blood vessels and that sets you up to develop plaque blockages in the arteries, which blockage in the arteries can lead to stroke, can lead to heart attack," explained Dr. JP Reilly, an Ochsner Interventional Cardiologist.
"It kind of staggers your lifestyle, because you're always worried about things that you do. Is it going to push it over that edge where you're going to have that major stroke or something like that? So that's the fear," said Carver.
Belinda is hoping she qualifies for the SIMPLICITY-HTN-3 study. Here's how it works: The kidneys not only produce urine, but also help balance hormones, fluids, and through the nervous system, our blood pressure.
In the study, doctors thread a catheter through the arteries in the thigh up to the kidney artery. The nerves nearby act like a thermostat. Using energy, they separate those nerves from the kidney artery and central nervous system in a small zone. So now the kidneys can't push the body into a constant level of higher adrenaline and blood pressure. It takes less than an hour.
In other countries for three years now, patients' blood pressure remains lower.
"They've shown that the benefits of the treatment have been very sustained, that three years later, people have seen a 30 millimeter drop in their blood pressure. These are people who despite being on three or more medicines just to get into the trial. And on average, they were on five different blood pressure medicines and still have blood pressures over 160 for the top number. So cutting their blood pressure down by 30 points, that's about a 20 percent drop. And we know that for every 10 millimeters of mercury we drop our blood pressure, we reduce our risk heart attack and stroke by half," said Dr. Reilly.
More than a quarter of the people with high blood pressure are like Belinda, a cause can't be found and medications don't work. Belinda knows her smoking is a danger and is working on quitting. She wants good health, not only so she can continue working in her local food bank, but for life with her three girls and six grand children.
If you have uncontrolled high blood pressure that has not been lowered with medication, call Ochsner at 842-6832 to see if you qualify for the study.