- Feb 13, 2018
Barbara Rutkowski, EdD, MSN, CCM - Vice President, Clinical Operations, Advanced Plan for Health & Joy McGee-Cory - Senior Vice President, Advanced Plan for Health
The team at Advanced Plan for Health (APH) is passionate about improving the health and well-being of as many healthcare consumers as possible, so in honor of Heart Health Month, we created the Consumer Guide to High Blood Pressure below for you to use to share details on the risk of hypertension and some preventative measures with your member, employee and patient populations. We encourage you to share any of this information as you find appropriate.
Heart Health Month – February 2018
Consumer Guide to High Blood Pressure
How is High Blood Pressure Defined?
Hypertension (also known as High Blood pressure) is defined as the force of blood against artery walls. It is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and recorded as two numbers — systolic pressure (when the heart beats) over diastolic pressure (when the heart relaxes between beats). Both numbers are important. Blood pressure rises and falls during the day. When it stays elevated over time, then it's diagnosed as high blood pressure.
How Risky is High Blood Pressure?
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta:
Hypertension contributes to 1,100 deaths per day just in America.
Those with high blood pressure are 3 times more likely to die from heart disease and 4 times more likely to die of a stroke.
Only about half of those with hypertension have their blood pressure under control.
69% of those having a first heart attack also have high blood pressure.
77% of those having their first stroke also have high blood pressure.
74% of those with chronic heart failure have high blood pressure.
Lowering blood pressure even by a little has a positive impact on reducing strokes, coronary heart disease and death. The good news is there is a lot you can do to contribute to lowering your blood pressure.
How to Get an Accurate Blood Pressure Reading
Accurate readings are important. Those with hypertension need to take their blood pressures regularly, following recommended steps that make the reading accurate.
Avoid caffeine, stimulating drugs, smoking and exercise for at least 30 minutes before taking your blood pressure reading. Be sure to take your blood pressure at least twice at different times after you have had the chance to relax for 5 minutes. You should be sitting in a chair with back support, feet flat on the floor and your arm should be supported. It is important to use the proper blood pressure cuff size and to verify high readings with a health care provider, who can do more testing prior to making a diagnosis.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help in selecting the best blood pressure apparatus for home readings, and also don’t hesitate to ask questions about measuring your blood pressure correctly. These are questions that health care providers are glad to answer for you, and they are not things you are expected to know on your own.
The Importance of Knowing Your Risk Factors
There are many modifiable lifestyle changes that can positively affect blood pressure, including making sure you take your blood pressure medication according to the instructions on your bottle, getting regular checkups and working closely with your physician if you have hypertension.
Cultural practices and traditions can affect your choice of how you live and what you eat, but some of these can be modified to be healthier. Drinking alcohol needs to be limited and tobacco use needs to be stopped, if possible. Don’t be afraid to ask for help with any of these areas, as others have done this successfully before, and there are tools available to help you as well.
Know that you’re not alone in this. Because of the American lifestyle – with the increased number of individuals who are overweight, the lack of exercise and poor dietary habits, as many as half of all adults may fall into a category of unhealthy blood pressure levels that are uncontrolled.
How Can You Control Your Blood Pressure?
You need to know your blood pressure numbers – every day. Take and record your blood pressure at different times, and especially when you are stressed or upset, to see how it changes.
Even if you do not have high blood pressure, a healthy lifestyle can help prevent it. To keep your blood pressure at normal levels, it helps to:
Strive for, and maintain a healthy weight.
Try to exercise actively for at least 30 minutes per day.
Follow a healthy eating plan, and reduce your sodium intake (more specific tips on this are below).
Drink alcoholic beverages in moderation.
See your health care provider at least annually, and more often if needed.
Have your cholesterol checked at least annually by your health care provider. They may also run additional blood tests to check for kidney function.
Take your high blood pressure medication, as prescribed, even if you cannot feel a difference or don’t feel that your blood pressure is high. This is very, very important.
Know the side effects of your medications, and how they work. Let your doctor know if you have questions or concerns.
Keep a log of your blood pressures, and take that to your appointments with your health care provider or case manager to let them know how your treatment plan is working.