It can certainly sound scary when we call things "The Silent Killer!" With blood pressure though, it is all about control. We call it the silent killer because many people with high blood pressure, or Hypertension (HTN) as we call it, walk around not knowing it due to a lack of symptoms. This is why we routinely check your blood pressure in primary care.
There has been a lot of back and forth in the medical community recently about what numbers really equate to HTN and what our goal target should be when treating. Generally, we call 120/80 normal. But what the heck does that mean? We call the top number your "systolic" blood pressure and the bottom number "diastolic." Systolic is when the pressure in your heart and arteries is highest, as your heart is pushing blood out to your body. Diastolic is when your vessels are relaxing in-between pumps.
So you just found out you have HTN. How do we get this under control?!
Depending on how significant your blood pressure is, we might need to start a medication. Don't worry, just because we start a medication does not mean we are committing you to it forever. The goal is always to make lifestyle changes as we are able to improve our blood pressure naturally.
You have the power to lower your blood pressure naturally.
- Lose weight (if you are overweight). Losing even a small amount of weight will help
- Choose a diet low in fat and rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products
- Reduce the amount of salt you eat (<2,400mg a day at max, but ideally <1,500mg)
- Be active for at least 30 minutes a day on most days of the week (or other exercise)
- Cut down on alcohol (if you drink more than 2 alcoholic drinks per day)
While we don't typically recommend one particular diet over another, when it comes to managing HTN the DASH Diet is safe, effective and backed by evidence. Access free resources including recipes here: https://healthyeating.nhlbi.nih.gov
Additionally, avoid medications known to increase blood pressure. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, otherwise known as NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen, etc), can increase blood pressure. Oral contraceptive pills may increase blood pressure in some women. Additionally, any stimulant, including those found in decongestants, weight loss products, ADHD medications, and illicit drugs can increase blood pressure. You should let us know if you are taking any of these medications.
Lastly, we should make sure you have an appropriate fitting blood pressure cuff to check your blood pressure at home. When we check you blood pressure in the office, it is only a brief moment in time and usually not under ideal conditions. What matters more is your blood pressure day to day at home. Check your blood pressure 2-3 times a week and keep a log so we can over it. This will help us make sure we have an effective treatment plan. Download a log here:
Questions? As always, just send a quick text to Dr. Sparks if you are a current patient.