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Managing High Blood Pressure

When you have high blood pressure, the force of blood against your artery walls is too strong, making the heart work extra hard to move blood. Although high blood pressure has no symptoms, over time it can damage the heart, blood vessels, eyes and other organs. Controlling high blood pressure can help prevent this damage.

Checking Your Blood Pressure

You can have your blood pressure checked at your physician's office or at a health fair or you can even check it yourself at home. As a cuff is inflated around your arm, your blood pressure is measured as your heart pumps and between beats.

What the Numbers Mean

A blood pressure check gives two numbers, one over the other. If either the top or bottom number is consistently about what is considered normal, you may have high blood pressure.

The top number is pressure when the heart beats (systolic). The bottom number is the pressure when the heart is at rest (diastolic). Ask your physician or health care provider what blood pressure numbers are healthy for you.

Lifestyle Factors for Blood Pressure

Certain lifestyle factors can increase the risk of high blood pressure and heart problems. The key to a healthier you is to change as many of these risk factors as you can.

  • Choose foods that are low in salt and saturated (animal) fat
  • Get plenty of exercise. Make your goal 30 minutes of activity every day
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Don't smoke. Limit alcohol to two drinks per day

Risk Factors for High Blood Pressure

If you have any of these risk factors, you should make extra efforts to lower your blood pressure:

  • Your parent, brother or sister has high blood pressure or heart disease
  • You have diabetes, heart disease or kidney disease

Medication for High Blood Pressure

Your physician may prescribe medication to help lower your blood pressure. Some types of blood pressure medications act on the heart and blood vessels; others remove excess fluid or salt from the body. Your physician will choose the best medication(s) for you. Be sure to continue with all parts of your treatment plan while taking the medication.

Taking Medication Properly

  • Be sure to take your medication at the same time each day
  • Write yourself notes, use an alarm or keep your pills by your toothbrush to remember to take them
  • Ask your physician what you should do if you miss a pill
  • Never stop taking your medication unless your physician tells you to stop. Stopping on your own could be harmful

Taking Your Blood Pressure at Home

You can check your own blood pressure with an in-home blood pressure monitor.

  • Read and follow the blood pressure monitor instructions carefully
  • Sit and relax for a few minutes
  • Take your blood pressure. Wait five minutes, then take it again on the same arm
  • Keep a log of your results

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