Blood pressure control is a lifelong challenge. Hypertension can progress through the years, and treatments that worked earlier in life may need to be adjusted over time. Blood pressure control may involve gradually making lifestyle changes like diet, weight loss, exercise, and possibly taking medicine if necessary. In some situations, medications may be recommended immediately. As with many diseases, you and your doctor should work together to find the treatment plan that works for you.
According to the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, the goal of blood pressure treatment is to attain a blood pressure reading that's less than 130/80 mmHg systolic and less than 80mmHg diastolic. In general, if you have hypertension, it is likely that you will need to be treated for the duration of your life to maintain this target blood pressure.
The medical world experienced yet another guideline update in 2018 telling doctors more medication is better. This guideline for treating hypertension was put out by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, and effectively lowered the definition of hypertension from 140/90 down to 130/80. The organizations also recommended drug treatment for all individuals with blood pressure greater than 140/90, regardless of underlying risk.
Season your food with herbs and spices instead of salt - which is known to raise blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg of sodium a day (a little over half a teaspoon of salt). Bear in mind that over 75% of our sodium intake comes from the salt already added to processed foods and restaurant meals, and not from the salt shaker.
In some cases, medication is necessary to lower blood pressure. It really depends on how high your blood pressure is and other risk factors, like family history of heart attack and stroke. Based on these risks and your current lifestyle, your doctor may prescribe common hypertension medications like lisinopril, amlodipine, losartan, and hydrochlorothiazide.
When taking your blood pressure, it’s imperative that the cuff is put on correctly before starting the measurment. Be sure to refer to your device’s manual for specifications and instructions on proper placement. Also, ensure that the cuff is appropriately sized for your arm. Universal cuff sizes work for most, but custom small or large cuffs are available.
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Loading up on potassium-rich fruits and vegetables is an important part of any blood pressure-lowering program, says Linda Van Horn, PhD, RD, a professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Potassium encourages the kidneys to excrete more sodium through urination, and that sodium excretion can help lower blood pressure.
Primary (or essential) hypertension is when the cause is unknown. The majority of hypertension cases are primary. When there is an underlying problem such as kidney disease or hormonal disorders that can cause hypertension, it is called secondary hypertension. When it is possible to correct the underlying cause, high blood pressure usually improves and may even return to normal.
“The heart works to pump oxygen in the blood to all your tissues and organs,” explains Lara Kovell, M.D., a cardiologist at UMass Memorial Medical Center. “Blood pressure is a measure of the force of blood pushing against the blood vessels, or arteries, of the body. If you were able to hold on to one of your arteries, the blood pressure is the force you would feel on your hand.”