Living Well with Hypertension

By Susan Stell

High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) is a condition in which the force of blood against the artery walls is too strong. High blood pressure adds to the workload of your heart and arteries. Your heart must pump harder and harder requiring the arteries that carry blood to move under greater pressure. If high blood pressure continues for a long time, your heart and arteries may not work as well as they should.

According to some sources, an estimated 73.6 million adults age 20 and older have high blood pressure in the United States. Because symptoms often do not exist, many individuals have high blood pressure for years without knowing it. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart attack, and heart or kidney failure. This is why high blood pressure is often called the “silent killer”. The only way to tell you have high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure checked.

The cause of high blood pressure is often unknown. However, there are some risk factors you can control which will help lower your blood pressure. Individuals who are obese are more likely to develop high blood pressure. Even for those who are markedly overweight, the loss of ten pounds, in conjunction with increasing physical activity, can often have a very positive effect on lowering blood pressure.

Controlling salt intake can also help reduce the risk of hypertension. Many canned and pre-packaged frozen meals contain large amounts of salt. Some recommendations to help reduce salt in your diet include:

  • Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain, high-fiber foods
  • Choosing fresh, frozen, or canned food items that say “unsalted” or “salt free” on the label
  • Select unsalted nuts or seeds, dried beans, peas, and lentils
  • Avoid adding salt to dishes made at home
  • Select fat-free (skim) or low-fat milk, low-sodium, low-fat cheeses, and low-fat yogurt
  • When dining out, be specific about what you want and request your dish be prepared without    salt
  • Learn to use spices and herbs to enhance the taste of your foods
  • As always, you should consult your physician or other health care provider regarding any dietary restrictions you may have.
  • Let’s face it; there are some risk factors of hypertension that are out of your control. Heredity tends to play a factor in high blood pressure. If your parents or other close relatives have a history of hypertension, your risk may be increased. African Americans tend to develop high blood pressure more often than Caucasians. Additionally, it tends to occur in these “at risk” individuals at a younger age and may be more severe.

Unfortunately, as you get older, the likelihood of your developing high blood pressure increases. A higher percentage of men have hypertension until age 45. From age 45-54 the percentages of men and women are similar. Beyond 54, a much higher percentage of women have hypertension than do men.

A single high reading does not mean you have high blood pressure. But, it is a sign that you need to monitor your blood pressure carefully. If you are diagnosed with hypertension, your physician is likely to prescribe medications to help get your blood pressure under control. This will help you feel better and give you more energy.

Many Medicare beneficiaries with high blood pressure remain in their own home. Jordan has developed a Living Well with Hypertension program designed to help you gain control of your blood pressure. Our specially trained nursing team will partner with you and your physician in developing a plan designed to meet your individual needs. We will teach you how to check your blood pressure and learn when to report something out of the ordinary to your physician. We will also teach you how to identify those foods that are low in sodium which will help you lower your blood pressure and prevent swelling in your legs and feet. If you are a smoker, we will even offer education on steps to help you stop smoking.

Our team of nurses and therapists has been providing home care services to the senior citizens of Texas since 1974. Call 1-800-64-NURSE (1-800-646-8773) to learn more about how we can help you or someone you love remain in the comfort of your home while learning how to control your blood pressure. At Jordan, “Home care is what we do; compassion and caring is who we are!”