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Controlling High Blood Pressure

Clip Number: 7 of 13
Presentation: High Blood Pressure
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Reviewed By: This presentation was a collaborative effort of practicing cardiologists and Clinaero medical writers.
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High blood pressure cannot be cured, but it can be controlled through a combination of lifestyle changes and, in many cases, medicine.
Lifestyle changes are the first form of treatment. Fortunately, they will improve your quality of life, as well as help control your high blood pressure. It may take 3 to 6 months before your healthcare provider sees the full benefit of lifestyle changes on your condition.
Some of these changes may include: weight loss, exercise, cutting down the salt in your diet, quitting smoking, reducing stress, and drinking less alcohol.
Try to lose weight, if you are overweight. It does strain your heart to carry extra weight. Also, as people gain weight, their blood pressure tends to rise. Losing weight can make high blood pressure drop back down. Your healthcare providers can help you pick a diet that's right for you. A low fat, low cholesterol, and low salt diet will usually be recommended along with an exercise program.
Many people think this means you have to exercise hard every day. Not true. A moderate exercise program will help keep your heart and blood vessels in shape. Your healthcare provider can help you with an exercise plan. Even walking at a brisk pace three days a week, for 30 to 60 minutes a day is considered "regular physical activity" by the American Heart Association. Also, you don't have to do it all in one exercise session. You can break it up into ten-minute sessions, or whatever works best for you.
Salt can make your blood vessels and body tissues swell and fill with fluid. This puts an extra strain on your heart. Nutrition labels on food packages will tell you the levels of salt in certain foods, and it will be listed as sodium.
Your doctor will let you know how much is too much. Also, there are a lot of different herbs and spices you can experiment with to flavor your meals, and many restaurants offer low-salt choices. Pre-packaged foods are usually processed with high amounts of sodium. As a good rule of thumb, it's better to buy fresh foods.
Nicotine in cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, snuff, and pipe tobacco can make blood vessels narrow and lead to high blood pressure.
Stress may be a major factor in your life, and may be partly causing your health problems by putting extra pressure on your heart and blood vessels, among other things. You may rely on unhealthy habits to ease your stress, like smoking, alcohol, and overeating. All of these things can lead to other health problems. Something as simple as spending a small amount of time relaxing every day, even at work, can help a lot. Make time to do things you enjoy.
Cut down on alcohol, if you drink more than 1-2 drinks a day. A person with high blood pressure can usually drink once in a while. However, your doctor can tell you how much is dangerous. Drinking alcohol may be one of the most common causes of high blood pressure.
Changing your habits is a very hard thing to do, and many people can feel overwhelmed with the changes they're told they need to make, especially when they were not feeling that bad to begin with. Just keep in mind that one healthy choice is better than none, and take it one day at a time.

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