The experts at the Canadian Hypertension Education Program (CHEP) agree that many of the older messages are still very important when it comes to managing high blood pressure. These older, but still important, messages are:
Reduce your sodium intake. CHEP guidelines continue to recommend that all Canadians should reduce their intake of sodium. Too much sodium (salt) in the diet is a significant cause of high blood pressure. Check food labels to see how much sodium each serving contains/. If you are age 50 and younger, aim for a sodium intake of less than 65 mmol (1500 mg) per day. If you are age 51 to 70 years, aim for a sodium intake of less than 57 mmol (1300 mg), and if you are over the age of 70, aim for 52 mmol (1200 mg) per day. Depending on your individual situation, your doctor may recommend a lower sodium intake. To cut your sodium intake, try using fresh foods more often than processed "convenience foods," rinsing canned foods to remove some sodium, using spices instead of salt during cooking, and choosing low- or reduced-sodium versions of foods.
High blood pressure treatment should be based on a person's overall heart disease risk, not just on high blood pressure. Therefore, in developing a treatment plan, doctors need to consider other risk factors for heart disease such as smoking, high cholesterol, physical inactivity, being overweight, diabetes, age, and gender. This overall risk will affect the blood pressure targets as well as the types of medications used.
Combination treatment is usually needed to control high blood pressure. Although lifestyle changes alone may control blood pressure for some, most people will need to combine lifestyle changes with one or more medications. Even when medications are needed, lifestyle changes are still important, as they may reduce the number of medications required to control high blood pressure. Experts agree that it is better to add on medications than to use the maximum dose of one medication or change to another medication.
Sticking with treatment is the key to long-term success. It can be a challenge to take medications regularly, especially for a medical condition such as high blood pressure that often has no symptoms. To help stick to your treatment plan, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about:
- ways to help you remember to take your medications
- simplifying your medications (e.g., once-daily dosing or combination products) – talk to your doctor or pharmacist about options that may be right for you
- any questions you have about high blood pressure and your treatment (including questions about lifestyle issues and medications)
For more information and tips on sticking with treatment, see our Health Feature "Don't Miss a Dose."
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