Hypertension (high blood pressure) is known as a “silent killer” because you rarely experience signs or symptoms of having it. Getting your blood pressure under control will help prevent long-term complications such as stroke and heart attack, as well as the development of other conditions such as heart failure and kidney failure.
Get the most from your treatment by taking your blood pressure medication exactly as prescribed. Speak to your Pharmacist for advice on how to manage your medications.
Some common side effects of blood pressure medications include cough, dizziness, fatigue and headache. If you experience any of these side effects, it may help to know that they are often short-lived and may go away as your body gets used to the medication. It may be tempting to stop taking your blood pressure medication if you experience undesirable side effects; however, suddenly stopping these medications can result in a sudden increase in blood pressure which can have negative consequences.
If you’re having trouble with side effects, speak with your Pharmacist before making any changes yourself. He or she can provide advice on what to do, such as changing the time of day you take your medications, or your Pharmacist may consult your Doctor to see if changing your medication to another alternative may help.
Natural products cannot be substituted for blood pressure-lowering medications your Doctor has prescribed for you. Also, some over-the-counter medications (OTC) and natural health products (NHPs) can affect your blood pressure or interact with your blood pressure medications. That’s why it’s important to make sure your Doctor and Pharmacist are aware of all the products you are currently taking, including vitamins, homeopathic products, NHPs and OTCs. For example, some OTC medications for coughs, colds and allergies, as well as nasal sprays, contain decongestants. These types of medications can cause your blood pressure to increase, especially if it is not well-controlled. Consult your Pharmacist before using these products.
Here are some tips to accurately measure your own blood pressure:
- Take 5 minutes to rest quietly before taking your blood pressure.
- Sit upright with your back and arms supported, arm at heart level and feet flat on the floor.
- Avoid caffeinated beverages and smoking 30 minutes before taking measurements.
- Avoid speaking or talking during measurements.
- Wait at least 1 minute between measurements.
You can purchase your own blood pressure monitor to use at home – or, your local Shoppers Drug Mart also has a blood pressure machine you can use in-store. To help you track your blood pressure values digitally, ask your Pharmacist for a Blood Pressure Smart Card. Your Pharmacist can also review your results with you and monitor your response to your blood pressure medications or other lifestyle changes you have made.
Here are a few lifestyle modifications you can make to help reduce your blood pressure:
A clinical study has shown that decreasing daily salt intake to less than 2000 mg per day while increasing fibre, whole grains, fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats like fish and poultry, and limiting consumption of red meat and processed sugary foods resulted in a significant decrease in blood pressure. The results of this study produced something called the DASH eating plan, which you can use to help manage your blood pressure. Talk to your Pharmacist to learn more.
Being physically active for 150 minutes per week, distributed across most days of the week, can help you maintain control over your blood pressure. These activities can range from swimming to biking or running. You should also add muscle-strengthening exercises at least twice per week. Selecting activities you enjoy will help you stick to your exercise routine. In addition, exercise can improve mood, help you manage your weight and reduce stress, all of which may have a positive effect on reducing your blood pressure, as well as risk for cardiac events.
If you smoke, your blood pressure increases briefly after each cigarette. Long-term smoking contributes to the blockage of arteries by fatty substances (known as atherosclerosis), which further increases your risk of heart attacks. Quitting smoking is an important step in the long-term management of blood pressure.
Drink Less Alcohol
Limiting your alcohol consumption to a maximum of 2 standard drinks per day can help reduce blood pressure. Men should not exceed 14 standard drinks per week and women should not exceed 9 standard drinks per week.
Stress can also cause increases in blood pressure through stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. Undermanaged stress can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms that may increase your blood pressure such as unhealthy food choices, alcohol consumption and smoking. Learning how to manage stress by exercising or using relaxation techniques may provide additional benefits in helping to control your blood pressure.