by Annita M. Taylor, MBA, MSN, APRN, ANP
Hypertension or high blood pressure is a medical condition that involves the force of blood flowing through the arteries that persist for a long period of time. According to the American Heart Association, approximately 1 in every 3 American adults have high blood pressure. As this condition develops over years, many times, symptoms do not present immediately; therefore, it is called the “silent killer”.
Some signs and symptoms of hypertension may include head or chest pain, dizziness, nose bleeding, or other symptoms. If left uncontrolled, several complications can arise such as stroke which could be fatal. The American Heart Association classifies blood pressure into 4 categories:
(Systolic blood pressure, the top (or first) number, measures the force your heart exerts on the walls of your arteries each time it beats. Diastolic blood pressure, the bottom (or second) number, measures the force your heart exerts on the walls of your arteries in between beats (Mayoclinic, 2021)
1) Elevated: 120-129 and less than 80 (Diet and exercise. Lifestyle changes).
2) Hypertension Stage 1: 130-139 or 80-89 (might prescribe a water pill "diuretic").
3)Hypertension Stage 2: 140 or higher or 90 or higher (this is serious. Follow up with your primary care provider and a cardiologist).
4) Hypertensive crisis: Higher than 180 and/or higher than 120 (a stroke waiting to happen!!).
The causes of hypertension can vary from genetics to lifestyle. Although being predisposed to the condition is out of your control, there are steps you can take to help control or reduce your risk of high blood pressure.
1. Healthy Coping: Stress increases blood pressure. Finding ways to better handle your stress can ease your mind and keep your pressure at bay. Finding a licensed mental health professional to help uncover the underlying cause of stress is also beneficial. As a team, you can create healthy strategies for dealing with stressors.
2. Kick the Salt: What we eat and how we prepare it is particularly important. Get in the habit of using alternative ingredients to season your food. Read food packaging labels to get the full dietary facts on the products of choice. Limiting your daily sodium intake (the daily less than 1500gms per day if you are at risk of high blood pressure or less than 2300gm per day if you are at low to no risk currently) is also key to reducing fluid retention. Cutting back on foods that contain lots of salt is good practice. Some of these foods are canned foods, deli sandwich meats, and processed meats such as hot dogs, bread, condiments, etc. Use alternative ingredients to season your food. Read food packaging labels to get the full dietary facts on the products of choice.
3. Get Moving: Not only does exercise make you look and feel great. It can be a form of stress relief. Exercise can naturally lower and help get blood pressure under control.
4. Don’t Booze to Lose- Do not drink more than what is recommended. Drinking more than 2–3 alcoholic beverages in one sitting can cause a spike in blood pressure. A continuation of this practice can cause long-term blood pressure problems. Begin the practice of drinking water between each drink.
These are a few ways to help reduce and or control blood pressure. It all begins with readiness for lifestyle changes. Speak with your medical provider regarding the causes, prevention, and treatment of hypertension.
Stay safe, informed, and healthy!
NP A.M. Taylor