Your doctor can help you measure and track your blood pressure to confirm whether it’s too high. You may need to start taking medications if your blood pressure doesn’t improve after one month of following a healthy lifestyle, especially if you’re already at high risk for heart disease. If you’re at lower risk, your doctor may want to follow up in three to six months after you’ve adopted more healthy habits.
An important part of a high blood pressure treatment plan is to stick to a healthy diet, including limiting sodium intake. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend consuming less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day (2). People with high blood pressure may need to restrict sodium intake even more. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg per day for adults with hypertension. (3)
A blood pressure reading contains two numbers: systolic pressure and diastolic pressure. Systolic pressure is the top or first number in your blood pressure reading; it indicates the pressure within your arteries when your heart pumps out blood. Diastolic pressure is the bottom number, and shows the pressure in your arteries while your heart is filling with blood.
Electrocardiogram (ECG): This tests the heart's electrical activity. This test is more commonly used for patients at high risk of heart problems, such as hypertension and elevated cholesterol levels. The initial ECG is called a baseline. Subsequent ECGs may be compared with the baseline to reveal changes which may point to coronary artery disease or thickening of the heart wall.
6. Cultivate stress management. You don’t need a meta-analysis of cohort studies to prove stress can raise blood pressure, but they exist. You can’t eliminate stress, but you can minimize its impact. Research shows yoga and meditation create effective strategies to manage stress and blood pressure. If those aren’t your thing, consider other stress-relieving tactics including deep breathing or practicing mindfulness.
In most cases, the goal of treatment is to bring down the systolic pressure to less than 140 mm Hg and the diastolic pressure to less than 90 mm Hg. For people with diabetes, target blood pressure goals are lower (e.g., less than 130/80 mm Hg). For some people are who at high risk of cardiovascular complications such as stroke or heart attack, your doctor may recommend a systolic pressure target of less than 120 mm Hg. Your doctor will determine the most appropriate goal for you.
Making some stuffed peppers for dinner tonight could be the first step on a journey toward a healthier heart and lower blood pressure. Bell peppers are an excellent source of vitamin C, with more of the potent antioxidant than even citrus fruits, which has been shown to improve cardiac function and lower blood pressure. Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reveals that loading up on vitamin C reduced blood pressure by 5 millimeters of mercury in patients with hypertension, making these versatile veggies a smart addition to any meal plan.
Whelton PK, Carey RM, Aronow WS, et al. 2017 ACC/AHA/AAPA/ABC/ACPM/AGS/APhA/ASH/ASPC/NMA/PCNA guideline for the prevention, detection, evaluation, and management of high blood pressure in adults: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2018;71(19):e127-e248. PMID: 29146535 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29146535.