FORT WAYNE – Vera Bigel got a double dose of not-so-good news Saturday morning. Her blood pressure was up, and her tire pressure was down.
The 76-year-old Fort Wayne woman was one of about 60 attendees at Women Under Pressure, an initiative of the local affiliate of the American Heart Association and McMahon Tire and Auto Center on Coldwater Road.
The event featured a seemingly unlikely pairing – education about car care and prevention of heart disease.
But Mary Pat Leonard, Heart Association outreach director, says linking the two makes sense – so much so that the local affiliate is hoping to bring it to a wider audience through the national association.
Knowing your tire pressure can help save your life, she says. Knowing your blood pressure is one of the things you need to know to help save your life, too.
Leonard says she and Kim McMahon, an owner of the tire center and a Heart Association volunteer, came up with the idea after McMahon had been talking with a tire company representative about what the business could do to attract more female customers.
The idea of teaching women how to perform the relatively simple procedure of checking tire pressure struck close to home, McMahon says.
Just last year, she says, she had a blowout on the Indiana Toll Road when her tire pressure dropped dangerously low after she ran over a nail.
The low-tire light came on, and five miles later down the road it just blew, she recalls. It jerked me off the road, and it was just terrifying.
Neglected high blood pressure over time can cause basically the same thing to happen to an artery, Leonard says.
The result can be a heart attack or a stroke that, according to statistics, kill 200,000 more women each year than all cancers combined, Leonard says.
Early fall is a good time to check for low tire pressure, McMahon says. Thats because in summertime temperatures, air in tires expands. But with falls cooler weather, air contracts, leaving tires underinflated.
A rule of thumb is that every 10-degree drop in temperature decreases tire pressure by about a pound per square inch.
Low tire pressure means more of the tire touches the road, which can lead to premature wear from friction and perhaps a blowout from tire separation. If tires squeal when cornering, thats a sign of low pressure, which should be checked monthly.
Angel Carillo, in the service department at McMahon, showed Bigel how to find the optimum pressure for the tires on her 1995 Nissan Maxima by checking a sticker on the door frame. Then he showed her how to use a tire pressure gauge and had her check her right rear tire.
Like her left rear tire, the pressure was low. That meant the black sedan got whisked off to the shop for quick inflation, and Bigel got a free gauge to keep in her car.
Earlier, she had her blood pressure checked by students from IPFWs community nursing program.
At 170-something over 80, she knew it was too high. She already knew the optimum level was about 120 over 80.
Its never been that high, Bigel says, adding that she had it checked at her doctors office about two weeks ago and it was normal.
I just told her (the student doing the test) that I was excited.
But she says shell definitely ask her doctor next time she sees her and adds shell use the heart-healthy cookbook the Heart Association gave out free to participants.
I love to cook, she says.