By Alfred A. Pirro, MD, TeamHealth Hospital Medicine
High blood pressure means that your blood is flowing through your vessels with too much force. This lack of good blood flow can damage organs in your body. The effects of uncontrolled blood pressure happen slowly so you generally won’t feel symptoms until after there is significant damage. If high blood pressure goes untreated, it could lead to strokes or heart attacks.
Though there is no cure for high pressure, there are many ways to keep it under control. Your physician is likely to prescribe medications and suggest lifestyle changes that you can incorporate into your everyday routine.
When prescribing medication, your physician may start with small doses and monitor their effects. It’s common to try different types of medication in order to observe effectiveness and side effects. You may hear your physician mention options like diuretics, ACE inhibitors, beta blockers, alpha blocker and vasodilators. With any treatment, your physician will likely ask you to have regular blood tests to determine how the medicine is working in your body.
Lifestyle changes can also be very effective in treating high blood pressure. For example, losing as little as 10 pounds may lower your blood pressure and your medication needs. Your physician may also suggest other changes that you can make in your daily routine such as reducing stress and making time for regular physical activity. Moderate activity for two and half hours a week or vigorous activity for one and a half hours a week is a good goal.
Other lifestyle changes your physician may discuss with you include eating a heart-healthy diet including more fruits, vegetables and dairy while reducing food high in fat. Additional lifestyle changes that are key to reducing blood pressure are quitting smoking, drinking less alcohol, cutting back on sodium and learning to check your own blood pressure at home.
Whatever your treatment regime, it is important to work with your physician to routinely monitor your pressure to ensure it is working for you.
Rutherford Regional Health System (RRHS) has many physicians and experts available to help manage and treat high blood pressure. RRHS can be reached by calling 828-286-5000. Learn more about RRHS at www.MyRutherfordRegional.com.
Dr. Alfred Pirro is a board certified physician in Critical Care and Anesthesia as well as a Certified Medical Director in Long-Term Care. He practices inpatient hospitalist medicine at Rutherford Regional Health System in Rutherfordton, N.C.