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Ask Dr. Leavitt: I have High Blood Pressure. How can I lower it?
Researchers have found people with even slightly elevated blood pressure, called prehypertension, are at a 50% higher risk of stroke than people who have normal blood pressure, known as normotension. This is just one of the many reasons getting to goal, reaching your blood pressure goal, is so important.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is life-threatening because it can lead to stroke, heart attacks, heart failure, or kidney disease. The goal of hypertension treatment is to decrease high blood pressure and protect your body, including blood vessels and organs. Reaching normal blood pressure level has been associated with risk reduction in stroke (reduced an average of 35%-40%), heart attack (20%-25%), and heart failure (more than 50%), according to research.
What are the defined levels of high blood pressure?
- Normal blood pressure: less than 120/80 mmHg
- Prehypertension: 120-139/80-89 mmHg
- Hypertension: greater than 140/90 mmHg
- Stage 1 Hypertension:140-159/90-99 mmHg
- Stage 2 Hypertension: 160 or greater/ 100 or greater mmHg
All patients with blood pressure two or more consecutive readings greater than 120/80 should talk with their family doctor about developing a plan to get them to their blood pressure goal.
Your family doctor can help teach you what lifestyle modifications to make, including eating a healthier diet, quitting smoking, and getting more exercise. Temporary treatment with blood pressure medication is recommended to lower blood pressure to less than 140/90 mmHg. This blood pressure medicine can be used until blood pressure is lowered from lifestyle modifications. For patients who also have diabetes or chronic kidney disease the recommended blood pressure is less than 130/80 mmHg.
How to Reach your Blood Pressure Goal
An essential step in preventing and treating high blood pressure is making healthy lifestyle choices. You can lower your blood pressure by implementing these lifestyle changes:
- Lose weight if you are overweight or obese.
- Quit smoking.
- Eat a healthy diet (think lean protein, fresh fruits and vegetables, low fat dairy products, less trans and saturated fat.
- Reduce the amount of sodium in your diet to less than 1,500 milligrams a day.
- Get regular aerobic exercise (walk at least 30 minutes a day, several days a week).
- Limit alcohol to two drinks a day for men, one drink a day for women.
These steps not only lower blood pressure, they enhance the effectiveness of high blood pressure medicine.
High Blood Pressure Follow-Up
After starting high blood pressure medication therapy, you should see your family doctor at least once a month until your blood pressure goal is reached. Once or twice a year, your family doctor will check the level of potassium in your blood and other electrolytes and BUN/creatinine levels (to check your kidney health).
After you reach your blood pressure goal, you should continue to see your family doctor every three to six months, especially if you have other conditions such as heart failure.
Dr. Paul Leavitt is a Board Certified Family Doctor in Hendersonville, TN. He sees patients of all ages and has a special interest in high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. At Leavitt Family Medicine, we are here for you, for all of your medical needs. We welcome your questions and comments; Please let us know how we can help you today!