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DIAGNOSED WITH HYPERTENSION (HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE)- WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Updated on September 27, 2011

Diagnosed with High Blood Pressure

Do you have high blood pressure? Join the crowd. According to the Center for Disease Control, high blood pressure effects nearly 1 in 3 U.S. adults. It is about equally divided between men and women, although we men tend to get it sooner.

I am a pharmacist. I also have high blood pressure. This article is written from the perspective of a pharmacist and a patient. This article is not intended to be a comprehensive study on the causes and treatment of high blood pressure. Volumes can be (and have been!) written on this (for an extensive 104 page treatment of the subject by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Association, click here) . My goal is to address the basic questions and general information that a newly diagnosed patient with high blood pressure should know.

With that perspective I would like to approach the following 3 questions in this article:

  1. What is high blood pressure and why do I have it?
  2. Why do I have to take medication to treat my high blood pressure?
  3. What should I do to manage my high blood pressure?

What is High Blood Pressure and Why Do I Have It?

High blood pressure, also sometimes called "hypertension," is a condition in which the pressure within your arteries (the blood vessels that are mostly involved in carrying oxygenated blood away from the heart) increases. More pressure in the arteries means more work for the heart.

Imagine trying to blow water out of a garden hose. Now imagine trying to do it while someone squeezes the hose. That's high blood pressure. A blood pressure measurement consists of 2 numbers (referred to as your systolic and diastolic pressure). A normal reading in around 120/80. When the top number routinely gets above 140 or the bottom number above 90, we usually begin to get concerned and make efforts to bring it down (sometimes with medication).

Why do you have high blood pressure? First, remember that a single high reading does not necessarily mean you have high blood pressure. Many things could cause a temporary and unusual rise in blood pressure. Secondly, if your blood pressure is routinely high, there could be a lot of reason. Certain disease or other conditions may have caused your blood pressure to rise. But most commonly high blood pressure is simply a genetic condition which cannot be "cured" but can definitely be treated and controlled.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic say this:

"High blood pressure typically develops over many years, and it affects nearly everyone eventually. Fortunately, high blood pressure can be easily detected. And once you know you have high blood pressure, you can work with your doctor to control it. "

Why Do I Have To Take Medication?

Most likely if you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, the next person you are likely to see is me, the pharmacist.

QUESTION: But why? Aren't there some other ways to treat high blood pressure? Do you I have to take these pills?

ANSWER: Although changes in lifestyle (like getting more exercise) and losing weight (sometimes) and reducing the salt in our diet (maybe) could produce a drop in blood pressure, often these measures (though valuable) are not sufficient. Lowering your blood pressure back down to normal levels is critical. High blood pressure has been called the "silent killer." It significantly contributes to heart disease, which is still the most common cause of death. You may feel fine, but you need to take your medicine as prescribed.

QUESTION: What about the DASH diet? Won't that work?

ANSWER: DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It includes eating more fruits and vegetables and fish and chicken and less saturated fats, red meats and sweets. This is a healthy diet and has been successful for some people. You may be able to work with your doctor about trying this approach.

QUESTION: Can't I just take a vitamin or herb, rather than a prescription drug?

ANSWER: Some people have found supplements like garlic or Hawthorn to help lower blood pressure. However, for many people, these supplements will simply not be strong enough to lower your blood pressure to a normal reading. Lowering your blood pressure a "little" will not help reduce your risk for heart disease or stroke, if your average reading is still regularly above 140/90.

How to Manage My High Blood Pressure

So what should you do? The following advice is not intended to replace the advice of your personal physician. These are general suggestions from a pharmacist.

First, if you are prescribed a medication for your blood pressure...TAKE it. This may be an entirely new experience for you. Read the material that comes with your medicine, it is important. For example, if you are taking hydrochlorothiazide, you will want to take this in the morning and also try to get a little extra potassium in your diet (orange juice or bananas are good choices). Be sure to refill it regularly.

Note: If your medication is too expensive, talk with your doctor about this (rather than just not taking it at all). Your doctor will likely be able to find something less expensive for you to take.

Second, check your blood pressure yourself. Many pharmacies have a free blood pressure meter you can use. But the best advice is to purchase a digital blood pressure monitor for your home. Take your pressure daily for the first few weeks, and then maybe once or twice a week once your readings are consistently normal again. Write these readings down, along with the date and time of each reading. Bring this journal of blood pressure readings to every appointment with your doctor. If your readings are regularly still too high, contact your physician.

Note: Most digital blood pressure meters sold in U.S. pharmacies are accurate and reliable. You don't need to buy the most expensive one to get good results. I suggest buying one that will both plug into a wall and also run on batteries if necessary. I also recommend the type that have a cuff that goes around the arm, rather than the wrist (or even finger). I bought one at Walmart made by Relion for about $35.00. It works great.

Third, if you have allowed your weight to get too high and/or your exercise routine is not consistent (30-60 minutes 3-4 times weekly) then work on these things. Take it slow and do not expect overnight changes. These healthy changes will further help reduce your risk for heart disease.

QUESTIONS? Do you have questions about your high blood pressure or medication? Feel free to ask them, or to share your experience managing your high blood pressure in the comments section below.

Best wishes!

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    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 5 years ago from USA

      I noticed that my blood pressure became consistently elevated when at work. I was working in a job I disliked and would sometimes test my blood pressure in the break room. I even got an at-home blood pressure reader because I believed there was something wrong with the meter at work and the numbers could not be right. Unfortunately, they were. I was amazed that when I made a job change, my blood pressure decreased from pre-hypertensive to a low-normal range, and it has stayed there.

    • Thundermama profile image

      Catherine Taylor 6 years ago from Canada

      Great info hear. Practical and wise. I like how you don't sound alarm bells but encourage people to take a holistic approach and take their medication if needed.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 6 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Yeah, well...I reserve judgement on that... ;-)

    • pharmacist profile image
      Author

      Jason Poquette 6 years ago from Whitinsville, MA

      DzyMsLizzy,

      Stress can definitely impact blood pressure. We're working on that pill for the economy right now. Should be ready by the next election. :)

      Thanks!

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 6 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Here's the thing: I never used to have high blood pressure, and normally, I do not. I do not appreciate the doctor wanting to push pills because my blood pressure reads a bit high due to "white coat syndrome."

      Furthermore, any chronic hypertension I may have is a direct result of the stress in our lives caused by the state of the economy. The cure is for the economy to straighten out, then my stress level and blood pressure along with it will both go down.

      I don't know of any pill that is going to fix the economy!

    • Rob Jundt profile image

      Rob Jundt 6 years ago from Midwest USA

      Excellent synopsis on high blood pressure, well written and concise. I, too, have experienced HTN. It crept up on me during my first semester of PTA school and is still lurking in the shadows if left unattended. I have taken medication for it, but over the summer when I began a fairly regular routine of exercise, which included cycling, swimming, and baseball with my son, I began to notice a significant drop in my BP. I was still on medication and checked my BP at least twice daily. For a few mornings I was getting readings in the low 100s for diastolic and high 60s for systolic. I was also having hypotensive symptoms such as faintness on standing and frequent "head rushes." After a while I stopped taking my meds and continued to monitor my BP. What happened was bizarre. My readings came up slightly, but were always WNL (within normal limits). I guess what I am trying to say is that diet (because I did eliminate quite a few things) and exercise can certainly impact blood pressure. My story in no way should be prescribed to by others without first consulting a doctor. So please all of you with HTN continue on your medications. I guess I am just fortunate for now. After speaking with a friend, who is also a neurologist, he stated one of the largest contributors to HTN is stress and the large amounts of stress hormones the body produces in reaction to it. Exercise, he told me, especially on a regular basis with an elevated heart rate, will "burn" off many of these stress hormones, so to speak. Once again, thank you for a great hub which is bound to be a guide for many people. And thank you also for allowing my story. I hope it, too, can be beneficial.

      Blessings,

      Rob

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 6 years ago from Long Island, NY

      I am on Blood Pressure medication. My doctor prescribed one that's not expensive. I also use a home digital monitor as you suggested, just to be sure the meds are working. Thanks for sharing this important information. Voted up and useful.

    • L.L. Woodard profile image

      L.L. Woodard 6 years ago from Oklahoma City

      I spoke to my family physician once about "pre-hypertension." His take on it was that everyone who doesn't have hypertension is pre-hypertensive. His rationale for this statement was that everyone, should they live long enough, will be hypertensive.

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