If you read our post – High Blood Pressure – The Facts – you’ll know May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month. You’ll also know that elevated blood pressure can increase a patient’s risk for heart disease or other serious illness. But you can help patients take steps to keep their blood pressure under control by sharing these useful tips.
Give Lifestyle Advice
- A healthy diet. Studies have shown that people who eat a healthy diet can lower their blood pressure.1 Not eating enough potassium (from fruits & vegetables) can increase blood pressure, so eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies. Sodium increases blood pressure so limit the amount of salt added to food, and be aware that many processed foods and restaurant meals are high in sodium. Also have them choose foods low in saturated fat & cholesterol.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight can raise blood pressure, so it stands to reason that losing some pounds can help lower blood pressure. Even small amounts of weight loss can make a big difference in helping to prevent and treat high blood pressure.
- Be active. Physical activity can help lower blood pressure. The Surgeon General recommends adults engage in moderate-intensity exercise for 2.5 hrs every week. Regular exercise, especially aerobic exercise, burns calories, helps blood pressure, lowers LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and boosts HDL (“good”) cholesterol. But remember that for some people, some forms of physical activity might be unsafe. If your patient has heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, or any health concerns, they must talk to their doctor before starting an exercise or fitness program.
- No smoking. Smoking damages the blood vessels and speeds up the hardening of the arteries. If your patient smokes, tell them that quitting will lower their risk for heart disease and stroke. There are numerous programs available to help smokers quit.
- Limit alcohol. Drinking too much alcohol is associated with high blood pressure. If your patient drinks alcohol, they should do so only in moderation; that means no more than one drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men.
Get Them To Be Proactive
- Get their blood pressure checked regularly. Getting regular blood pressure checks is important because high blood pressure often has no symptoms. Explain how blood pressure is measured; ‘systolic’ refers to pressure when the heart beats while pumping blood and ‘diastolic’ refers to pressure when the heart is at rest between beats. Blood pressures are written with the systolic number above/ before the diastolic number – 120/80.
|Blood Pressure Levels – Adults (aged 18 & older) who don’t have short-term serious illnesses.2|
|Normal||Systolic: less than 120 – Diastolic: less than 80|
|At Risk (Prehypertension)||Systolic: 120–139 – Diastolic: 80–89|
|High||Systolic: 140 or higher Diastolic: 90 or higher|
Treat Medical Conditions
- Prevent and manage diabetes. Patients can reduce their risk of diabetes by eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and being physically active. About 60% of people who have diabetes also have high blood pressure.3 If your patient has diabetes, they can lower their risk for high blood pressure by following the healthy guidelines listed by the CDC here.
- Treat high blood pressure. If your patient already has high blood pressure, their doctor may prescribe medications in addition to lifestyle changes. All drugs may have side effects, so have them talk with their doctor regularly. As blood pressure improves, their doctor will want to monitor it often. Lifestyle changes are just as important as taking medications.
- NIH: Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) 1
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National High Blood Pressure Education Program.
- NIH: The Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure [PDF-223K] Bethesda, MD: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; 2003.