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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
What is hypertension?
Hypertension is high blood pressure. Your blood pressure is the force of your blood moving against the walls of your arteries. Hypertension causes your blood pressure to get so high that your heart has to work much harder than normal. This can damage your heart. Even if you have hypertension for years, lifestyle changes, medicines, or both can help bring your blood pressure to normal.
What do I need to know about the stages of hypertension?
- Normal blood pressure is 119/79 or lower . Your healthcare provider may only check your blood pressure each year if it stays at a normal level.
- Elevated blood pressure is 120/79 to 129/79 . This is sometimes called prehypertension. Your healthcare provider may suggest lifestyle changes to help lower your blood pressure to a normal level. He or she may then check it again in 3 to 6 months.
- Stage 1 hypertension is 130/80 to 139/89 . Your provider may recommend lifestyle changes, medication, and checks every 3 to 6 months until your blood pressure is controlled.
- Stage 2 hypertension is 140/90 or higher . Your provider will recommend lifestyle changes and have you take 2 kinds of hypertension medicines. You will also need to have your blood pressure checked monthly until it is controlled.
What changes may my healthcare provider make to the medicines used to treat chronic hypertension?
Your healthcare provider may add, remove, or change any of the following medicines. Do not change or stop taking any of your current medicines without talking to your provider.
- Antihypertensives may be used to help lower your blood pressure. Several kinds of medicines are available. Your healthcare provider may change the medicine or medicines you currently take. This may be needed if your blood pressure is often high when you check it at home or you are having other problems with blood pressure control.
- Diuretics help decrease extra fluid that collects in your body. This can help lower your blood pressure. You may urinate more often while you take this medicine.
- Cholesterol medicine helps lower your cholesterol level. A low cholesterol level helps prevent heart disease and makes it easier to control your blood pressure.
What can I do to manage chronic hypertension?
- Check your blood pressure at home. Avoid smoking, caffeine, and exercise at least 30 minutes before checking your blood pressure. Sit and rest for 5 minutes before you take your blood pressure. Extend your arm and support it on a flat surface. Your arm should be at the same level as your heart. Follow the directions that came with your blood pressure monitor. Check your blood pressure 2 times, 1 minute apart, before you take your medicine in the morning. Also check your blood pressure before your evening meal. Keep a record of your readings and bring it to your follow-up visits. Ask your healthcare provider what your blood pressure should be.
- Manage any other health conditions you have. Health conditions such as diabetes can increase your risk for hypertension. Follow your healthcare provider's instructions and take all your medicines as directed. Talk to your healthcare provider about any new health conditions you have recently developed.
- Ask about all medicines. Certain medicines can increase your blood pressure. Examples include oral birth control pills, decongestants, herbal supplements, and NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen. Your healthcare provider can tell you which medicines are safe for you to take. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines.
What lifestyle changes can I make to lower my blood pressure?
Your provider may want you to make more lifestyle changes if you are having trouble controlling your blood pressure. This may feel difficult over time, especially if you think you are making good changes but your pressure is still high. It might help to focus on one new change at a time. For example, try to add 1 more day of exercise, or exercise for an extra 10 minutes on 2 days. Small changes can make a big difference. Your healthcare provider can also refer you to specialists such as a dietitian who can help you make small changes.
- Limit sodium (salt) as directed. Too much sodium can affect your fluid balance. Check labels to find low-sodium or no-salt-added foods. Some low-sodium foods use potassium salts for flavor. Too much potassium can also cause health problems. Your healthcare provider will tell you how much sodium and potassium are safe for you to have in a day. He or she may recommend that you limit sodium to 2,300 mg a day.
- Follow the meal plan recommended by your healthcare provider. A dietitian or your provider can give you more information on low-sodium plans or the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan. The DASH plan is low in sodium, unhealthy fats, and total fat. It is high in potassium, calcium, and fiber.
- Exercise to maintain a healthy weight. Exercise at least 30 minutes per day, on most days of the week. This will help decrease your blood pressure. Ask your healthcare provider about the best exercise plan for you.
- Decrease stress. This may help lower your blood pressure. Learn ways to relax, such as deep breathing or listening to music.
- Limit alcohol as directed. Alcohol can increase your blood pressure. A drink of alcohol is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of liquor.
- Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can increase your blood pressure and also cause lung damage. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
Call 911 for any of the following:
- You have chest pain.
- You have any of the following signs of a heart attack:
- Squeezing, pressure, or pain in your chest
- and any of the following:
- Discomfort or pain in your back, neck, jaw, stomach, or arm
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea or vomiting
- Lightheadedness or a sudden cold sweat
- You become confused or have difficulty speaking.
- You suddenly feel lightheaded or have trouble breathing.
When should I seek immediate care?
- You have a severe headache or vision loss.
- You have weakness in an arm or leg.
When should I contact my healthcare provider?
- You feel faint, dizzy, confused, or drowsy.
- You have been taking your blood pressure medicine but your pressure is higher than your provider says it should be.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
Care AgreementYou have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
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