Self-Care

Taking medicine and leading a healthy lifestyle are the two main ways to prevent or reduce high blood pressure. Losing even 10 pounds can make a big difference in lowering your blood pressure. Your doctor may also ask you to check your blood pressure regularly at home.

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Medical Treatment

If you stop taking your medicine, your blood pressure will go back up. You may take one or more types of medicine to lower your blood pressure. Other tips:

  • Be safe with medicines. Take your medicine exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • Talk to your doctor before you start taking aspirin every day. Aspirin can help certain people lower their risk of a heart attack or stroke. But taking aspirin isn’t right for everyone, because it can cause serious bleeding.
  • See your doctor regularly. You may need to see the doctor more often at first or until your blood pressure comes down.
  • If you are taking blood pressure medicine, talk to your doctor before you take decongestants or anti-inflammatory medicine, such as ibuprofen. Some of these medicines can raise blood pressure.
  • Learn how to check your blood pressure at home.

Lifestyle changes

  • Stay at a healthy weight. This is especially important if you put on weight around the waist. Losing even 10 pounds can help you lower your blood pressure.
  • If your doctor recommends it, get more exercise. Walking is a good choice. Bit by bit, increase the amount you walk every day. Try for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week. You also may want to swim, bike, or do other activities.
  • Avoid or limit alcohol. Talk to your doctor about whether you can drink any alcohol.
  • Try to limit how much sodium you eat to less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) a day. Your doctor may ask you to try to eat less than 1,500 mg a day.
  • Eat plenty of fruits (such as bananas and oranges), vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products.
  • Lower the amount of saturated fat in your diet. Saturated fat is found in animal products such as milk, cheese, and meat. Limiting these foods may help you lose weight and also lower your risk for heart disease.
  • Do not smoke. Smoking increases your risk for heart attack and stroke. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.

Checking your blood pressure at home

When blood pressure is high, it starts to damage the blood vessels, heart, and kidneys. This can lead to heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, and other problems. But if you don’t measure your blood pressure, you won't know when it’s high, because there are usually no symptoms. Checking your blood pressure at home helps you work with your doctor to diagnose and manage your blood pressure. Checking it at home does not replace having it checked by your doctor.

Keeping a blood pressure diary

Everyone’s blood pressure changes from day to day and even from minute to minute sometimes. Blood pressure tends to be higher in the morning and lower at night. Stress, smoking, eating, exercise, cold, pain, noise, medicines, and even talking can affect it.

You might use a home blood pressure log or a spreadsheet on your computer to record your blood pressure numbers with the date and time. The blood pressure monitor you use at home might have a feature that will record your numbers for you. Some monitors can transfer this information to your computer.

Also record your daily activities, such as the time you take medicine or if you feel upset or feel stressed.

Choosing a home blood pressure monitor

There are two types of blood pressure monitors:

  • Automatic monitors. These are easier to use. They do the listening for you.
  • Manual monitors. This is the kind of device you usually see at the doctor's office. It involves using a stethoscope to listen to the heartbeat.

Buying and maintaining a monitor

When you first get a blood pressure device, check its accuracy. Do this by comparing its readings with those you get at the doctor’s office. Ask your doctor or nurse to watch you use your device to make sure that you are doing it right and that it works right. It’s a good idea to have your device checked every year at the doctor's office.

The size of the blood pressure cuff and where you place it can greatly affect how accurate your device is. If the cuff is too small or too large, the results won't be right. You may have to measure your arm and choose a monitor that comes in the right size.

A monitor that measures blood pressure in your arm is recommended for most people. Blood pressure monitors used on the wrist aren’t as reliable as those that use arm cuffs. Wrist monitors should be used only by people who can’t use arm cuffs for physical reasons. And devices that use finger monitors aren’t recommended at all.

How to use an automatic blood pressure monitor at home

Before you take your blood pressure:

  • Don't eat, smoke, or exercise for at least 30 minutes. And don't use any medicines that can raise blood pressure, such as certain nasal sprays.
  • Rest at least five minutes before you take a reading. Sit in a comfortable, relaxed position with both feet on the floor. Don’t move or talk while you are measuring your blood pressure.
  • Try not to take your blood pressure if you are nervous or upset.
  • If you can, use the same arm for every reading. Readings may be 10 to 20 mm Hg different between your right arm and your left arm.

Remember that blood pressure readings vary throughout the day. They usually are highest in the morning after you wake up and move around. They decrease throughout the day and are lowest in the evening.

When you first start taking your blood pressure at home, always take your blood pressure three times. Wait one to two minutes between recordings to let the blood flow back into your arm. After you get better at doing it, you probably will need to do it only once or twice each time.

  1. Sit with your arm slightly bent and resting comfortably on a table so that your upper arm is at the same level as your heart.
  2. Wrap the blood pressure cuff around your bare upper arm.
  3. The lower edge of the cuff should be about 1 inch (2.5 cm)above the bend of your elbow.
  4. Press the on/off button.
  5. Wait until the ready-to-measure “heart” symbol appears next to zero in the display window.
  6. Press the start button.
  7. The cuff will inflate.
  8. After a few seconds, the cuff will begin to deflate.
  9. The numbers on the screen will begin to drop.
  10. When the measurement is complete, the heart symbol will stop flashing.
  11. The numbers tell you your blood pressure and pulse.

Keep a blood pressure diary. Your records may help explain changes in your blood pressure readings and help your doctor make sure you get the right treatment.

Check your blood pressure cuff often. Make sure all of the parts of your monitor are in good condition. Even a small hole or crack in the tubing can lead to inaccurate results.

©2019 Healthwise, Incorporated. This information does not replace the advice of a doctor.

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Causes & Risk Factors

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Prevention

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Symptoms & Diagnosis

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Complications

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Treatment

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Self-Care & Management

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