High Blood Pressure: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

If your blood pressure is usually above 140/90, you have high blood pressure, or hypertension. You have high blood pressure if your top number is 140 or higher or your bottom number is 90 or higher, or both.

Despite what a lot of people think, high blood pressure usually doesn't cause headaches or make you feel dizzy or light-headed. It usually has no symptoms. But it does increase your risk for heart attack, stroke, and kidney or eye damage. The higher your blood pressure, the more your risk increases.

Your doctor will give you a goal for your blood pressure. This goal may be below 140/90. Or it may be even lower if you have other health problems, such as diabetes, heart failure, or coronary artery disease.

Changes in your lifestyle, such as staying at a healthy weight, may help you lower your blood pressure. Your treatment also will include medicine. If you stop taking your medicine, your blood pressure will go back up.

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?

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. Be safe with medicines. Take your medicine exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line 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 at least 2 times a year. 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 4.5 kilograms 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 2½ hours a 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.
  • Limit salt.
  • 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.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. This may mean having symptoms that suggest that your blood pressure is causing a serious heart or blood vessel problem. Your blood pressure may be over 180/110.

For example, call 911 if:

  • You have symptoms of a heart attack. These may include:
    • Chest pain or pressure, or a strange feeling in the chest.
    • Sweating.
    • Shortness of breath.
    • Nausea or vomiting.
    • Pain, pressure, or a strange feeling in the back, neck, jaw, or upper belly or in one or both shoulders or arms.
    • Light-headedness or sudden weakness.
    • A fast or irregular heartbeat.
  • You have symptoms of a stroke. These may include:
    • Sudden numbness, tingling, weakness, or loss of movement in your face, arm, or leg, especially on only one side of your body.
    • Sudden vision changes.
    • Sudden trouble speaking.
    • Sudden confusion or trouble understanding simple statements.
    • Sudden problems with walking or balance.
    • A sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches.
  • You have severe back or belly pain.

Do not wait until your blood pressure comes down on its own. Get help right away.

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), but you don't have symptoms.
  • 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:

  • Your blood pressure measures 140/90 or higher at least 2 times. That means the top number is 140 or higher or the bottom number is 90 or higher, or both.
  • You think you may be having side effects from your blood pressure medicine.
  • Your blood pressure is usually normal, but it goes above normal at least 2 times.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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