Under Pressure

Get pumped about managing Hypertension!

Considering nearly half of adults in the United States have high blood pressure, it’s a term we hear frequently, but what is it exactly? High Blood Pressure or Hypertension is when the force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries is consistently too high. When left untreated, hypertension puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke. It’s normal for our blood pressure to rise and fall throughout the day, but when it stays high for long periods of time your heart can be damaged leading to health problems or even death. The good news is, there several steps you can take to manage hypertension and live a healthy life!

Stop Smoking.

You should do this today. Smoking is harmful for many reasons and we encourage all patients who are smokers to quit immediately. It’s often easier said than done, so check with your provider for some strategies to ensure you quit smoking for good.

Exercise.

Physical activity strengthens your heart, and a stronger heart can pump more blood with less effort, thus decreasing the force on your arteries and lowering your blood pressure. For some patients, exercise lowered blood pressure enough to quit taking medication. Daily exercise can also prevent hypertension as you grow older. If you are implementing a new exercise routine, or starting to exercise for the first time, be sure to chat with your doctor before you begin.

Eat a Heart Healthy Diet.

In other words: put down the salt shaker! Incorporating the DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) into your daily life can have a big impact on not just hypertension, but your health overall.

DASH DIET:

  • Eat more vegetables and fruit
  • Eat less foods that are high in saturated fat, cholesterol and trans fats
  • Eat more whole grains, fish, poultry and nuts
  • East less sodium, sugar and red meats

The diet itself is pretty simple but following it can be a challenge. Try making small changes at first and ease your way into a new diet. Add a serving of vegetables at lunch and dinner, choose fruit, plain popcorn or low-fat yogurt as your afternoon snack, switch to low-fat dairy products, limit how much butter, salad dressing or other condiments you use, and if you don’t know already, learn to read food nutrition labels and choose low sodium foods.  

Take Your Medications.

You may not be able to manage you high blood pressure with diet and exercise alone, but there are medications that can help you reach your blood pressure goal. Talk with your doctor about the right approach for you. They will know when it’s time to work medications into your routine. Once you are prescribed a medication for high blood pressure, it’s important to take it exactly as directed. If you are not able to follow your physician’s instructions, be sure to discuss your options at your next appointment. Don’t make changes to your treatment without guidance from your doctor.

Monitor Your Blood Pressure at Home.

Once you implement changes into your lifestyle, it’s important to monitor your blood pressure on a regular basis to understand if you are going in the right direction. If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, it’s important to check it daily to ensure your numbers are stable and staying in a safe zone. Check with your provider for best practices for measuring your blood pressure at home. They can also help you find the right fit when it comes to purchasing a cuff. Once you’re ready to go, use this helpful log to keep track of your numbers for the month.

Blood Pressure Machines

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If you think you have high blood pressure and want to check your blood pressure often, those free machines at local pharmacies are tempting. But just how accurate are they?

There are two types of blood pressure monitors. The first is the one you’re probably most familiar with, manual blood pressure monitors. These consist of an arm cuff, squeeze bulb, gauge and a stethoscope. This is most likely what your doctor or nurse practitioner uses when you go into the office for a visit.

 

There are also automatic monitors, much like the one in your local pharmacy and home usage. These are powered by batteries, usually a pump, and have a cuff that attaches to your upper arm. These monitors are easier to use. The only monitors that are recommended are upper arm models and wrist models should not be used. The machine at your local pharmacy may be tempting, but according to a study from The Journal of Family Practice, the machines at local pharmacies aren’t calibrated as often as they should be. It’s also possible the cuff won’t fit you, meaning your reading isn’t accurate.

If you want to monitor your blood pressure at home, you should purchase an automatic upper arm model for about $60-80. Models that have been shown to be accurate are made by Omron and HoMedics. Be sure to place the cuff on your arm and sit for 3-5 minutes to obtain an accurate reading. If you do not rest before the readings, the measurements will be TOO HIGH. Also, remember that blood pressure is very variable and you will see some high and some low readings, which is normal. Write down the readings and share these with your physician.

This article was originally published on December 15, 2014, and was updated on February 2, 2017.

Hypertension and High Blood Pressure

As a patient you may have heard the term hypertension before, which is really just another word for having high blood pressure. However, hypertension is a real concern affecting roughly one third of the adult population in the United States.

Blood pressure is recorded as two numbers – the first representing the pressure when the heart is beating (systolic), and the second pressure during the relaxation of the heart (diastolic). So why are these two numbers so important? Blood pressure represents the pressure in the arteries that supply nutrients to the organs. Too much pressure in any system is harmful long-term. We measure blood pressure at rest to determine if a person has hypertension, or if the hypertension is controlled. Individual readings (no matter how high) do not predict immediate risk of stroke and do not require emergency treatment; rather averages of multiple readings indicate blood pressure control.

 

 

But why is hypertension such a big concern? Hypertension is highly associated with vascular diseases such as diabetes, stroke, kidney failure, coronary heart disease and congestive heart failure. The best way to prevent a stroke is to control hypertension by controlling blood pressure. Hypertension treatment also decreases the risk of other vascular diseases and risk of heart attack.

Some things to consider:

 

  1. The treatment of hypertension has noticeably improved over the past several decades. The current treatments usually result in once-a-day drugs that have rare, minor, and reversible side-effects. These drugs have no side-effects for most people. Many of these drugs are generic and can cost as little as $10 for a three month supply. There are several classes of medications. The majority of patients need more than one class of drug to control their hypertension, however there are many agents with two or three drugs in one pill.
  2. If you have hypertension, you also need to control your other risk factors for ‘hardening of the artery’ diseases such as heart attack, stroke and peripheral vascular disease. Areas to work on include quitting smoking, exercising more, controlling your cholesterol and limiting your salt intake. Remember, salt is found in many common foods such as luncheon meats, soups, catsup, ham and cheese.
  3. If you have hypertension, your physician will most likely recommend you purchase a home blood pressure monitor. They are easy to use and very accurate. I recommend taking your blood pressure in the morning and before dinner after about three to five minutes of sitting, and then record the readings. You should take your blood pressure twice daily for a month after your blood pressure medicine has been added or changed. Monthly readings are sufficient if your blood pressure is controlled. I suggest taking your blood pressure on the first day of each month. Don’t forget to bring in these readings for your health care provider.

 

Strokes are life-changing and debilitating. Don’t ignore controlling your hypertension as it is a truly silent killer that can be prevented by easy treatment.