Tauyna Stewart GirlTrek

Taunya Stewart woke up feeling strangely hot. Her body felt taut, as though she would pop if someone were to touch her.

“My first thought was, ‘Oh my god, I’m having a heart attack’,” she said.

Stewart called her mom to take her to the hospital, which was 40 minutes away from her home at the time in Mendenhall, Mississippi. They stopped at a convenience store on the way, so she could buy and take some aspirin. (The American Heart Association advises that people call 911 when experiencing warning signs of a heart attack.)

Once they reached the hospital, Stewart learned her blood pressure was 226/154 mmHg – a hypertensive crisis. If left untreated, such an emergency could result in severe consequences, including stroke and heart attack.

“The doctor told me I had literally run from heart disease as long as I could and that it was finally catching up with me,” said Stewart. She was told she would likely require medication for the rest of her life to keep her blood pressure under control.

Stewart, 42, chafed at the idea. She began researching how she could lower her blood pressure through lifestyle changes.

“I can remember growing up and seeing this box my grandmother had full of different medications and thinking, ‘I don’t want that to be me,’” she said.