What You Should Know About High Blood Pressure

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1 What You Should Know About High Blood Pressure

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3 What Is Blood Pressure? Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of your arteries (blood vessels). There are two measures of blood pressure: systolic and diastolic. Systolic Pressure: This is the measure of the pressure against the walls of your arteries when your heart beats. It is often referred to as the top number because it is always stated first when blood pressure numbers are read. It is also the larger of the two numbers. Diastolic Pressure: This is the measure of the pressure against your artery walls between heartbeats. As an example, assume your systolic pressure is 118 and your diastolic pressure is 74. You would have a blood pressure of 118/74, and it would be read as 118 over 74. It is important to note that your blood pressure is lower when you are asleep and higher when you are excited, angry, nervous, stressed, or physically active. A normal blood pressure is lower than 120/80.

4 What Is High Blood Pressure? Medical name: Hypertension When the pressure pushing against your artery walls remains higher than normal, it is called high blood pressure. This increased pressure makes your heart work harder. You are said to have high blood pressure when your readings are consistently 140/90 or higher. Your chances are greater for developing high blood pressure if you are middle-aged or older, overweight, have a family history of high blood pressure, or have prehypertension*. You can have high blood pressure when either your systolic reading or your diastolic reading is high. High blood pressure is common; about one in three adults have it. Once you develop high blood pressure, you will always have it. However, it can be treated and controlled. * You have prehypertension when your blood pressure reading is between 120/80 and 139/89. You are more likely to develop hypertension if you have prehypertension. Lifestyle changes can help to prevent high blood pressure from developing.

5 Why Worry About High Blood Pressure? High blood pressure is called The Silent Killer because it has no symptoms. One third of the people who have high blood pressure don t know they have it. High blood pressure is the single highest risk factor for stroke. It can also lead to a heart attack, heart failure, kidney failure, and blindness. The higher your blood pressure, the greater your risk for these health problems. However, lowering your blood pressure with lifestyle modifications and medication (if needed) can reduce that risk. For example, a 12- to 13-point reduction in your blood pressure can reduce your chance of a stroke by 37 percent, a heart attack by 21 percent, and death from cardiovascular disease** by 25 percent. If you have already had a stroke, controlling your blood pressure can reduce your risk of having another one. ** In the word cardiovascular, cardio refers to the heart and vascular refers to blood vessels. Therefore, cardiovascular disease refers to disease of the heart or blood vessels. Important Note to Diabetics In managing the ABC s of your diabetes, it is important to understand how your blood pressure can affect you. As many as two out of three people with diabetes also have high blood pressure. If you have uncontrolled blood pressure along with diabetes, you are at greater risk of having a heart attack, a stroke, or eye or kidney damage. The National Institutes of Health and the American Diabetes Association have recommended blood pressure targets for you that are different than those for non-diabetics. If you have readings that are consistently 130/80 or higher, you are considered to have high blood pressure and your doctor will probably prescribe medication to lower it. The good news is that many of these medications are showing some protective effects against diabetesrelated kidney and cardiovascular disease.

6 Take Action! Live Well and Reduce Your Risk Here are some tips that can help you live a healthful lifestyle and protect yourself from the perils of high blood pressure. L ifestyle Changes: Start by making a commitment to live well. Keep in mind, small steps can add up to big rewards. Making a change in just one area can have a positive effect on your blood pressure. I ncrease Your Physical Activity: Work toward a level of activity that feels right. A goal of 30 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week is recommended. Walking, yoga, hiking, biking, gardening, and yard work are all excellent activities you may want to try. Key Note: Be sure to check with your doctor before increasing the amount of physical activity you do. V erify Your Medications: Be sure you know what medications you are taking and why you take them. Keep a list with you and keep it up to date. If you don t feel well when you take your medicine, talk to your doctor. Know what to do if you are ill or unable to take your medicine, or if you forget to take a dose. E at Healthfully: Follow the DASH eating plan (DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). DASH is a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products. It helps you avoid foods that are high in saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol. (Visit the DASH Web page listed at the end of this booklet for more information.) Also, try to select foods that are low in salt and sodium. Key Note: Discuss any dietary changes with your doctor, especially if you have dietary restrictions.

7 W atch Your Weight: Discuss recommended nutrition and exercise guidelines with your physician. E liminate Stress: Set aside some quiet time and get plenty of rest and sleep. Try meditation and relaxation techniques. Set realistic goals and expectations, and pace yourself. Don t forget to laugh it reduces stress! L imit Alcohol: Two drinks per day for a man and one per day for a woman is acceptable. L ook to Friends and Family Members for Support: They are the ones who know you best. Rely on them to help you. Encourage them to exercise and eat healthfully, too. If you have any concerns at all about your blood pressure, talk to your doctor. Don t be afraid to ask questions and take the time to understand the answers. Stay on Track If you find yourself veering away from your health goals for any reason, don t worry. Jump right back on the path to better health tomorrow! Put a STOP to the damage smoking does to your blood vessels! Join the 1.3 million people who will quit smoking this year. Persistence pays off. To participate in Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island s telephonic smoking cessation program, contact the Case Management Department at (401)

8 To Learn More Visit the online resources listed below for additional information. When visiting a site, search for blood pressure. The more you find out about high blood pressure, the better able you will be to prevent or control it. BCBSRI.com Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Your Guide to Lowering High Blood Pressure DASH Eating Plan American Heart Association This booklet is intended to give you a general understanding of what high blood pressure is and the ways in which it may be treated. Only a licensed and qualified healthcare professional can diagnose and prescribe treatment for you. This booklet is available in Spanish and Portuguese. Call Customer Service at the number on the back of your Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island member ID card to obtain a copy in either language. 444 Westminster Street Providence, RI Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. 6/06 MM BR

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