Elevated Blood Pressure: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

The heart

Blood pressure is a measure of how hard the blood pushes against the walls of your arteries. It's normal for blood pressure to go up and down throughout the day. But if it stays up over time, you have high blood pressure.

Two numbers tell you your blood pressure. The first number is the systolic pressure. It shows how hard the blood pushes when your heart is pumping. The second number is the diastolic pressure. It shows how hard the blood pushes between heartbeats, when your heart is relaxed and filling with blood. A normal blood pressure in adults is less than 130/85 (say "130 over 85"). High blood pressure is 140/90 or higher. You have high blood pressure if your top number is 140 or higher or your bottom number is 90 or higher, or both.

The main test for high blood pressure is simple, fast, and painless. To diagnose high blood pressure, your doctor will test your blood pressure at different times. You may have to check your blood pressure at home if there is reason to think that the results in the doctor's office aren't accurate.

If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, you can work with your doctor to make a long-term plan to manage it.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • 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.
  • Stay at a healthy weight.
  • Limit sodium.
  • Be physically active. Get at least 2½ hours of exercise a week. Walking is a good choice. You also may want to do other activities, such as running, swimming, cycling, or playing tennis or team sports.
  • Avoid or limit alcohol. Talk to your doctor about whether you can drink any alcohol.
  • Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products. Eat less saturated and total fats.
  • Learn how to check your blood pressure at home.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your blood pressure is much higher than normal (such as 180/110 or higher).
  • You think high blood pressure is causing symptoms such as:
    • Severe headache.
    • Blurry vision.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/ed

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