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Tips to Control Blood Pressure

Learn about blood pressure monitoring, medicines and salt intake.

When you have high blood pressure, it’s important to manage the condition to maintain your health. Left untreated, it not only increases your risk of heart disease, peripheral artery disease and stroke, it can also lead to:

  • Kidney damage
  • Vision and memory loss
  • Fluid in the lungs
  • Erectile dysfunction

That’s why it’s important to measure your blood pressure regularly, take your medicines as directed, and limit your salt intake.

What Your Numbers Mean

Blood pressure is recorded as a ratio of systolic over diastolic pressure, such as 120 over 80 or 120/80 (normal blood pressure). The systolic reading is the amount of pressure for your heart to squeeze blood into your body; diastolic represents the amount of pressure when your heart relaxes and fills with blood.

Blood pressure ranges are:

  • Normal: Less than 120 and less than 80.
  • At risk: 120-139 and 80-89.
  • High: 140 or higher and 90 or higher.

For your convenience, we offer blood pressure monitoring at our Health Library & Resource Center. The service is free, but you need to make an appointment in advance.

Take Your Blood Pressure at Home

When you check your blood pressure regularly at home, you can make sure you stay within a healthy range. Ask your doctor or nurse for recommendations for a home monitor (don't use finger or wrist monitors).

How to measure your blood pressure:

  • The first time you take your blood pressure at home, measure it on both arms. After that, use the arm that had the highest numbers to take measurements.
  • Make sure the monitor’s cuff fits your arm. Ask your doctor which size is appropriate for you (adult, large or extra-large).
  • Rest for five minutes before you take your blood pressure.
  • Don't smoke, drink caffeine or exercise within 30 minutes of taking your blood pressure.
  • Sit in a chair with your back straight and supported, with both feet on the floor; don't cross your legs. Rest your arm on a table, with your upper arm at heart level.
  • Take your blood pressure twice a day at the same time for seven days. Record these numbers — either by saving on the machine or writing them down — and show them to your doctor. You doctor will discuss how often you should take your blood pressure for ongoing monitoring.

Blood Pressure Medicines

Most people with high blood pressure take medicine to bring it down to a normal range. Medicines can be used to remove excess salt and fluid in your body, reduce your heart rate, and relax narrowed blood vessels. Your doctor may change your prescriptions a few times to find what works best for you.

Take your medicines as your doctor prescribes and:

  • Ask if there's an optimal time to take your medicine, such as before or after you eat, in the morning, or at night.
  • Use a pill box that has separate compartments for each day of the week, even if you only take one type of medicine a day. This will help you keep track of whether you've taken your medicine each day.
  • If you have trouble remembering, put a note somewhere you'll see every morning, such as on the refrigerator, on the bathroom mirror or another place you won't miss.
  • Keep a list of the medicines you take and always take the list with you. Bring it to all your healthcare appointments. We offer a preprinted form for your convenience.
  • If you have trouble reading the prescription label or opening the bottles, ask the pharmacist for large-print labels and easy-to-open tops.
  • If you don't feel well after taking a medicine, let your doctor know right away.
  • Don't stop taking a medicine until you've discussed it with your doctor.

Limit Dietary Salt

When you limit the salt (sodium) in your diet, it can help lower your blood pressure. Try to eat less than 2,000 mg of salt a day (a teaspoon has 2,300 mg). Try not to add salt to food you cook, and read food labels so you're aware of your intake.

You can manage your blood pressure by following the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan, a flexible and balanced diet that can help you eat heart healthy for life.

How to Read Food Labels

Check the nutrition facts on packaged food and pay particular attention to:

  • Serving size and servings per container – This information is at the top of the food label.
  • Sodium – Remember the value here represents one serving size. Consider how a particular food will fit into your daily 2,000 mg limit. Low sodium is 140 mg or less per serving, and no sodium is less than 5 mg per serving.
  • Total fat and cholesterol – Choose foods that are low in fat — particularly saturated and trans fats — and cholesterol.
  • Percentage of daily value – Five percent of the daily value or less of a nutrient (such as sodium or fat) is considered low; 20 percent or more is high.

Tips to Reduce Salt

You’ll automatically lower your salt intake if you eat more fresh, unprocessed foods and plenty of fruits and vegetables. In addition, you can:

  • Season food with fresh herbs and spices, vinegars and lemon juice rather than salt.
  • Rinse canned foods to remove salty liquid or choose low-sodium options.
  • Choose oil and vinegar for salads, rather than prepared dressings. If a restaurant doesn’t offer oil and vinegar, ask for dressing on the side so you can limit the quantity.
  • Look for sodium-free and reduced-sodium versions of packaged foods.

 

Learn more about how to reduce salt in your diet with a free consultation with a nutritionist at our Health Library & Resource Center. And, because high blood pressure is a significant concern for the Chinese community, we offer culturally sensitive services through our Chinese Health Initiative.

Foods to Avoid

Stay away from processed foods, which often have a lot of salt. Try to avoid:

  • Fast food – Pizza, tacos, burritos, cheeseburgers, fries and fried chicken.
  • Packaged meats and cheeses – Ham, bacon, corned beef, hot dogs, sausage, salt pork and cottage cheese.
  • Canned foods and condiments – Pickles, sauces, dips, salad dressings, soups and broths.
  • Prepared and convenience foods – Frozen meals, foods that contain soy sauce or are marinated, smoked or cooked in broth.

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