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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Hypertension is high blood pressure (BP). Your BP is the force of your blood moving against the walls of your arteries. Normal BP is less than 120/80. Prehypertension is between 120/80 and 139/89. Hypertension is 140/90 or higher. Hypertension causes your BP to get so high that your heart has to work much harder than normal. This can damage your heart. You can control hypertension with a healthy lifestyle or medicines. A controlled blood pressure helps protect your organs, such as your heart, lungs, brain, and kidneys.
Call 911 for any of the following:
- You have discomfort in your chest that feels like squeezing, pressure, fullness, or pain.
- You become confused or have difficulty speaking.
- You suddenly feel lightheaded or have trouble breathing.
- You have pain or discomfort in your back, neck, jaw, stomach, or arm.
Return to the emergency department if:
- You have a severe headache or vision loss.
- You have weakness in an arm or leg.
Contact your healthcare provider if:
- You feel faint, dizzy, confused, or drowsy.
- You have been taking your BP medicine and your BP is still higher than your healthcare provider says it should be.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
You may need any of the following:
- Medicine may be used to help lower your BP. You may need more than one type of medicine. Take the medicine exactly as directed.
- Diuretics help decrease extra fluid that collects in your body. This will help lower your BP. 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.
- Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:
You will need to return to have your BP checked and to have other lab tests done. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
Talk with your healthcare provider about these and other ways to manage hypertension:
- Check your BP at home. Sit and rest for 5 minutes before you take your BP. 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 BP monitor. If possible, take at least 2 BP readings each time. Take your BP at least twice a day at the same times each day, such as morning and evening. Keep a record of your BP readings and bring it to your follow-up visits. Ask your healthcare provider what your BP should be.
- 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 BP. Learn ways to relax, such as deep breathing or listening to music.
- Limit alcohol. Women should limit alcohol to 1 drink a day. Men should limit alcohol to 2 drinks a day. 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 BP 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.
- 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.
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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.