Living on the edge of the numbers

Cassandra Capers

Living on the edge of the numbers
February 14
03:00 2019

Many people are aware that they should know their blood pressure numbers, but few know why it is important and how it can impact their lives. Winston-Salem resident, Cassandra Capers, has seen the impact of blood pressure on her family and has experienced it firsthand.

In 2015, Cassandra went to the hospital for a severe headache, earache and neck pain. Her blood pressure was above 190/106, well above the recommended 120/80.

“I was given shots, monitored and then sent home,” shared Cassandra. “I still didn’t feel right. I just knew that something was still wrong and that I needed to go back.” When she visited the doctor the next day, her doctor gave her high blood pressure pills to bring her levels down quickly because she was in the “stroke zone.” The next day, her pain was at an all-time high. Cassandra went back to the emergency room where she spent 11 days in the hospital and was put on 13 different medicines to try and manage her high blood pressure.

Now Cassandra is exercising and watching what she eats. She also checks her blood pressure several times a day to ensure she always knows her numbers.  “After making some heart-healthy lifestyle changes and keeping track of my blood pressure, I’ve been able to greatly reduce my blood pressure medications,” said Cassandra.

Cassandra also encourages her three children and four grandchildren to check their blood pressure and to have yearly electrocardiograms to head off heart disease in their future. She has sound reasons to back up that statement.

“In 2001, I started to experience shortness of breath and chest pains that woke me up at night. I also had horrible migraines that could last up to a week,” recalled Cassandra. She was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and underwent surgery at Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center that involved shaving the heart muscle and inserting a mechanical valve. As a heart disease survivor and an American Heart Association 2018 Forsyth County Go Red Woman, she shared her personal story throughout the year to help other women prevent and fight high blood pressure and heart disease.

Cassandra’s family history told a story of untreated high blood pressure and risk for stroke. Cassandra’s mother, Verdell E. Price, had several mini-strokes and three major strokes. These strokes affected her speech, left her partially paralyzed, and caused her to suffer from neurological dysfunction. “Because of her high blood pressure and the strokes, her quality of life was severely impacted before she passed away at 85,” shared Cassandra.

“My grandfather, Eunic J. Epps, suffered from untreated high blood pressure which led to mini-strokes and a hemorrhagic stroke, which is a bleeding in the brain, ending his life at 93 years old,” said Cassandra.

Her youngest brother, Horace J. Price, also had a severe stroke in 2016 that left him partially paralyzed on his left side, affected his speech and caused him to have early stage dementia. “Because of his untreated high blood pressure, Horace’s brain went without oxygen too long and I lost my baby brother at just 56 years old,” shared Cassandra.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is the second leading cause of preventable heart disease and stroke death — second only to smoking. Hypertension is known as the “silent killer” because often there are no symptoms, despite its role in significantly increasing the risk for heart disease and stroke. Under the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology’s 2017 guidelines, nearly half of U.S. adults have high blood pressure at 130/80 mm Hg rather than 140/90. About 50 million women have hypertension in the United States, with hypertension causing more than 30 percent of the cardiovascular events in women. Nearly 60 percent of stroke deaths are in women, with non-Hispanic black women having the highest prevalence of stroke.

Novant Health is proud to be the American Heart Association’s Life Is Why and Go Red For Women sponsor in Forsyth County, celebrating all women in Forsyth County, supporting women wherever they may be in their journey, and encouraging women to put their health first. For more information, visit

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