Blood pressure basics

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High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) has no symptoms. So, if you don't have your blood pressure checked regularly, the first sign of high blood pressure could come in the form of a heart attack, a stroke, heart failure, or kidney failure. Here is how to control high blood pressure.

 

Be aware: Get checked.

A normal blood pressure reading is less than 120/80. If your blood pressure is higher than 120/80, it means your heart is working harder than it should. A systolic blood pressure of 120 to 139, or a diastolic blood pressure of 80 to 89, is called prehypertension. It is a risk factor for developing high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a reading of 140/90 or higher.

 

Eat for a healthy beat.

Consider following the "Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension" (DASH) diet plan. Studies show this helps lower blood pressure. It doesn't require special foods. It's a plan that includes a certain number of servings from a variety of food groups: vegetables, fruits, fat-free or low-fat milk, whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds, and nuts. It also provides a combination of foods rich in minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and vitamins, limiting intake of saturated fats and cholesterol. 

The American Heart Association recommends that everyone - no matter what age, ethnic background, or medical condition - consumes less than 1,500 mg of sodium a day. Following the DASH eating plan and keeping salt intake to 1,500 mg a day has shown the biggest benefit for blood pressure reduction in people with high blood pressure. 

 

Exercise for your heart.

Even a moderate amount of exercise can help you lose weight and lower your blood pressure. Walking is a good choice. It is easy to do and is easy on your body. Before you begin exercising, talk with your doctor and keep these guidelines in mind:

  • Begin slowly, and slowly increase the amount you exercise.

  • Drink a lot of water, even if you do not feel thirsty.

  • Always warm up before exercising and cool down after.

  • Try to exercise moderately for 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week. 

 

Other lifestyle changes.

Lowering your stress level can also help lower your blood pressure. Exercise can help you reduce your stress. So will relaxation techniques, meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises.

Smoking is another risk factor that you can control. It isn't easy, but kicking the habit is one of the best things you can do to lower your blood pressure - and improve your overall health. 

 

When you need medication.

If lifestyle changes are not enough, or if you have other health problems, such as cardiovascular disease, it may be necessary to manage your high blood pressure with medication. 

There are several things to remember when taking medicine for high blood pressure: 

  • Always follow your doctor's instructions. Ask questions if you're not sure what to do.

  • Make sure your pills are properly labeled and stored.

  • Make sure your health care providers know about any prescription and over-the-counter drugs that you take.

  • Try to be patient. It may take a few tries to find the best medicine and dosage for you. Some people need more than one medicine to control their blood pressure.

  • Never stop taking a medicine without your doctor's approval. If you have side effects, talk with your doctor.

  • Never skip a dose. Keep taking your medicine even when you feel well.

  • Keep in shape. Eating healthy foods and getting regular exercise will also help your medicines do their job.

High blood pressure will not go away on its own, and if you return to your old habits or stop taking medication, it can go back up. Controlling your high blood pressure is something you need to continue forever. But you can do it. It's a lifelong task that can make your life longer.