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High Blood Pressure: What can I do about it?

High blood pressure is the common name for the medical term hypertension. Most people do not even initially know that they have high blood pressure. It does not usually cause symptoms. High blood pressure exists when it take a higher amount of force to pump your blood through your body than normal. High blood pressure does put you at an increased risk for stroke, heart attack, and kidney disease. Every time you visit the medical clinic you will get a blood pressure taken that will be two numbers such as 120 over 80. The top number is called the systolic number which is the pressure in your body's arteries when you heart is contracted. The bottom number (diastolic number) is the pressure in your arteries when your heart is in a relaxed state.

There are ways to reduce your blood pressure without medication. These are called lifestyle changes. The activity you do and the foods you eat have an effect on your blood pressure. These include losing weight, reduce the amount of salt you eat, and cutting down on alcohol. Eating a diet low in fat with more fruits and vegetables will also help. Eating less salt can help reduce your blood pressure. When most people hear "eat less salt" the first thing they think of is to avoid the salt shaker. It involves more than just that. Many of the prepackaged and processed foods that we eat are high in sodium. Anything in a can, jar, bag, or box is probably higher in sodium. A good rule of thumb is to try and buy fresh or fresh-frozen foods. This will decrease your sodium intake without even trying. The goal is to have less than 2300mg of sodium per day. Make sure to stay active for at least 30 minutes a day on most days of the week. This does not mean you have to go to the gym. Exercise can be accomplished in a variety of ways. Walking, gardening, dancing, hiking, biking, and deep cleaning are all forms of exercise that you can enjoy without even realize you are exercising.

Do not attempt to make all these changes at once. Have a simple goal and stick to it. If it becomes a habit, pick a new goal and eventually you will have a healthy lifestyle.

If medication is needed for high blood pressure it is important to take it as prescribed. It is important to talk to your doctor about any side effects of the medicine. Do not stop the medication abruptly without talking to your healthcare provider. Another thing that may help is having a blood pressure monitor at home. People who monitor their blood pressure at home on average have better control and end up taking less medicine. High blood pressure is common and treatable in a variety of ways, talk to your healthcare provider and see which option is right for you.

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