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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
What is hypertension?
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.
What causes hypertension?
The cause of hypertension may not be known. This type of hypertension is called essential or primary hypertension. Hypertension can sometimes be caused by other medical conditions, such as kidney disease. This type of hypertension is called secondary hypertension.
What increases my risk for hypertension?
- Age older than 55 years (men)
- Age older than 65 years (women)
- A family history of hypertension or heart disease
- Obesity or lack of exercise
- Too many high-sodium foods
- Use of tobacco, alcohol, or illegal drugs
- A medical condition, such as diabetes, kidney disease, thyroid disease, or adrenal gland disorder
- Certain medicines, such as steroids or birth control pills
What are the signs and symptoms of hypertension?
You may have no signs or symptoms, or you may have any of the following:
- Blurred vision
- Chest pain
- Dizziness or weakness
- Trouble breathing
How is hypertension diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and the medicines you take. He or she will also ask if you have a family history of high blood pressure and about any health conditions you have. He or she will also check your blood pressure and weight and examine your heart, lungs, and eyes. You may need any of the following tests:
- Blood tests may help healthcare providers find the cause of your hypertension. Blood tests can also help find other health problems caused by hypertension.
- Urine tests will be done to check your kidney function. Kidney problems can increase your risk for hypertension.
How is hypertension treated?
Your healthcare provider will recommend lifestyle changes to lower your BP. You may also need the following medicines:
- 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.
What can I do to manage hypertension?
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.
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.
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 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.
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 caregivers 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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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.