Controlling High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the most common heart conditions in the United States, affecting more than 50 million Americans. It occurs when your heart works harder than normal to pump blood to the rest of your body.
Blood pressure is measured and recorded as two numbers: systolic pressure, the peak force when the heart beats; and diastolic pressure, the force against the artery walls when the heart is between beats or at rest. The systolic blood pressure is the higher number. A normal blood pressure for adults should be less than 140/90.
Many people who have high blood pressure do not know they have it because there are usually no obvious symptoms. If left untreated, high blood pressure can result in serious health problems, such as brain, kidney, eye, heart or blood vessel damage, heart disease and stroke. A recent study by the Mayo Clinic also found that people with high blood pressure are more likely to suffer a decline in mental ability as they age.
Because of the serious health risks associated with high blood pressure, it is extremely important to have your blood pressure checked regularly by a physician. High blood pressure is controllable through lifestyle changes and certain medications.
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Exercise at least three to five times per week
- Eat foods that are low in fat and sodium
- Eat vegetables, fruits and fiber
- Don’t smoke
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Cope with stress in a healthy way
Medications to control high blood pressure include diuretics (which increase urination), beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, alpha-blockers, and ACE inhibitors. It is important to stay on a regular medication schedule as recommended by your doctor. If you have any side effects such as headaches or fatigue, contact your physician.
In controlling high blood pressure, it is important to maintain a close and honest relationship with your primary care physician. He or she will work with you to determine which medications will work best for you, and can also help you develop a diet and exercise plan according to your individual needs.