One in three adults in the United States has high blood pressure. It is a common health problem seen in medical offices and hospitals daily. If treated early and effectively, it can be well controlled.
But, if not controlled, it can lead to a heart attack, kidney failure or a stroke. Any of these complications could cause death.
Some people have risk factors that increase the chance they will develop high blood pressure. These risk factors include: blood relatives in your family with high blood pressure; being over age 60; being post-menopausal; or being African-American.
There are other risk factors, however, that you can control. These modifiable risk factors include smoking, obesity, excessive alcohol intake, high stress levels, sedentary lifestyle and excessive intake of sodium.
The good news is that individuals can control their high blood pressure. The measures for control are simple and easy to follow. The most important way to control your blood pressure is to take the medications you have been prescribed every day, exactly as ordered. Do not skip any days or doses. Next, you will need to have your blood pressure checked on a regular basis. You could purchase a monitor and learn to do it yourself, or you can stop by your doctor’s office.
Another great place to have your blood pressure checked is at a fire department. The EMTs and paramedics will be happy to check your blood pressure if they are not involved in an emergency call. You will want to have a place to write down your blood pressure readings, so you can share them at your next medical appointment.
Also, exercise is an important tool to lower your blood pressure. One of the best exercises for high blood pressure is simply walking. You should try to walk 30 to 40 minutes three or four times a week. You can start slow and increase your frequency or minutes walked over a period of weeks.
As you exercise, you may find that your blood pressure readings begin to drop. This could mean a change in medication or a decrease in the medication needed to control your blood pressure. These changes can only be made by your medical provider. Never change your medication dosage or frequency on your own.
While these measures are the most important, there are many other ways to improve your blood pressure. If you smoke, you could investigate the possibility of quitting. If you are interested, speak to your medical provider about the options available to help you.
If you drink more than seven alcoholic beverages a week, consider cutting down to fewer than seven; this will be helpful in reducing your elevated pressure.
In addition, by becoming more aware of what you eat, you may find excessive salt in your diet. Salt is hidden in many foods, especially processed food.
Let’s take a look at a recent situation involving high blood pressure that hit close to home for Allison, one of our JU nursing students, who was concerned about her “Nana” Sophie.
Allison, a JU student nurse, was worried about her grandmother Sophie, who had high blood pressure. The student approached a faculty member with questions about the situation. She stated that her “Nana” took her medications daily, checked her blood pressure weekly, walked daily and did not drink or smoke.
But Sophie’s blood pressure had not decreased at all, and she noticed that her hands and feel were puffy. The student wondered what was wrong. As she answered the instructor’s questions, she revealed that Nana often ate canned soup for lunch and frozen dinners for her evening meal.
Nana’s problem was too much salt (sodium) in her diet. One can of soup can have up to 66 percent of your daily sodium needs. Add to that the high sodium content of frozen dinners, and the problem was discovered.
Allison was excited to share this information with Nana. A few weeks later, the student reported that her grandmother’s puffiness was gone and her blood pressure was beginning to decrease.
Nursed to Health is an occasional feature in which Jacksonville University School of Nursing faculty discuss symptoms, diagnoses and treatments based on composites of patient cases handled by instructors, students and alumni of JU’s local training programs. Today’s column is by Dian Renfro, MSN, RN, Assistant Professor of Nursing in JU’s Brooks Rehabilitation College of Healthcare Sciences. It appeared in The Florida Times-Union on July 22, 2015.