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Strategies to Control Blood Pressure

What is blood pressure?
Your blood pressure is a measurement of the pressure or force inside your arteries with each heartbeat.

  • Untreated high blood pressure can lead to disease of the heart, blood vessels and kidney.
  • The goal of treating high blood pressure is to maintain a blood pressure of less than 130/85.

It is up to you to take control!
If you smoke, QUIT
Each time you smoke a cigarette, blood pressure rises. Cigarette smoking is a very strong risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Quit smoking tips:

  • Make a list of all the reasons you want to quit.
  • Pick a date for quitting.
  • Note the situations when you smoke and break those links.
  • Get a "buddy" to help you quit.
  • Keep trying if you slip.

Some people quit by themselves. Others need a group or class. Your doctor can give you a list of smoking cessation programs in your area. There are also medications that may help you quit smoking. Please discuss these options with your doctor.

Achieve and maintain your ideal body weight
Being overweight is very closely connected to high blood pressure, especially if your body mass index (weight in kilograms divided by your height in meters squared) is 27 or greater. Excess upper body fat (for example a waist measurement of 34 inches or greater in women or 39 inches or greater in men) is also related to high blood pressure, diabetes, increased blood lipid levels, and coronary heart disease.
Weight loss tips:

  • Take a look at your current eating habits
  • Decrease the fat in your diet
  • Watch your portion sizes
  • Choose healthy low-calorie snacks
  • Set realistic goals: weight loss should be gradual, no more than one or two pounds per week

A registered dietitian can help you take a look at your current eating habits and plan strategies to help you lose weight.

Limit alcohol intake
Drinking too much alcohol can increase your blood pressure and make it more difficult to treat high blood pressure. Those who have high blood pressure should limit their daily alcohol intake to:

  • 2 ounces of alcohol (example: whiskey, vodka, or gin) OR
  • 10 ounces of wine OR
  • 24 ounces of beer

Follow a regular exercise program
Regular aerobic activity helps to:

  • Prevent and control high blood pressure
  • Lose weight or maintain ideal weight
  • Control diabetes
  • Manage stress
  • Improve blood cholesterol levels

It is also a good way to feel more energy to carry out daily activities.

Exercise must be:
Regular: three to five times per week) for 30 - 45 minutes
Aerobic: activities such as walking, cycling, or aquacize
Safe: ask your health care professional before you begin an exercise program what type and amount of exercise is right for you.
Exercise specialists and programs are available to help you begin a safe and regular exercise program.

Limit your intake of sodium (salt)
Many people are sensitive to sodium in their diet, especially those who are African American, older, or have hypertension or diabetes. Lessening the amount of sodium in the diet can lower blood pressure.
Sodium should be limited to no more than 2300 mg per day. Sodium is found in table salt and many of the foods we eat, most commonly, preserved foods, canned foods, luncheon meats, cheeses and snacks.

Tips to limit sodium:

  • LEARN TO READ LABELS (read food labels and over-the-counter medication labels for sodium content)
  • Do not use the salt shaker at the table
  • Use herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods
  • Avoid processed foods (canned and frozen foods, cheeses and luncheon meats)
  • Choose snack foods wisely

A registered dietitian can help you take a look at your current food choices and help you select foods lower in sodium.

Include foods rich in potassium in your diet
Including potassium-rich foods in the diet may protect against high blood pressure and help to control blood pressure that is too high. Also, if your blood potassium is too low, it may increase blood pressure.

Foods that contain potassium include:

  • Bananas
  • Dried fruits
  • Skim milk
  • Potatoes

If you take a "diuretic" (water pill) to control your blood pressure, it is important to have your doctor check your potassium level during your regular check-ups. You may need to be on a potassium supplement to keep your blood potassium within the normal range. Some medical conditions (such as kidney disease) may require you to LIMIT the amount of potassium in your diet. Talk with your doctor about including potassium-rich foods in your diet.
A registered dietitian can give you more information about foods rich in potassium.

Other foods to help lower blood pressure
A study, called DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) looked at the impact of foods on high blood pressure. They found that those following a DASH diet lowered systolic blood pressure (the top number) by 5.5 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) by 3.0 mm Hg.
This includes:

  • Increase calcium intake to more than 1200 mg/day
  • Lower fats to less than 26% of calories
  • Increase fiber, potassium and magnesium

In people with high blood pressure, the systolic blood pressure decreased by 11.4 mm Hg and the diastolic blood pressure decreased by 5.5 mm Hg.
A registered dietitian can help you plan your daily menu to include foods rich in fiber, potassium magnesium and calcium, while limiting the amount of fat.

Control stress and anger
During periods of stress or anger, blood pressure rises. If the stress and anger persists, over time, high blood pressure can occur. Stress and anger also related to heart disease.

Tips to control stress and anger:

  • Manage your time
  • Set realistic goals of what you can accomplish each day
  • Take time each day to relax
  • Learn relaxation techniques

Stress management professionals are available to help you learn new strategies to control stress and anger

Take medications to control high blood pressure
Depending on your blood pressure readings, other risk factors, or blood pressure related conditions your doctor may decide to place you on medications to reach your blood pressure goal. Decreasing blood pressure with medications and lifestyle changes clearly decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease and death.
Tips to treat high blood pressure with medications:

  • Follow your doctor’s orders about taking your medications
  • Do not stop taking your medications without talking to your doctor

There are many different types of blood pressure medications. You will need to find the best drug to achieve your blood pressure goal with the least amount of side effects.

Follow-up with your health care team
To control high blood pressure, you must work with your health care team of doctors, nurses, and other health care providers. Once your high blood pressure is diagnosed, your doctor may want to see you often until it is under control (every one to four weeks). He or she may want you to monitor your blood pressure at home and keep a record of your blood pressure at different times of the day. Once your blood pressure is in control, regular follow up visits are still required to ensure control and minimize side effects. Your doctor will tell you how often to schedule visits.

When you come to the doctor, bring:

  • A list of your current medications
  • Your blood pressure record
  • A list of any questions you may have

It’s up to you
High blood pressure effects over 50 million Americans each year. Over time, high blood pressure can cause damage to your blood vessels and major organs (heart, kidney). Through lifestyle changes, medications, and working with your health care team, you can control your high blood pressure and prevent future problems.

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