Arterial hypertension corresponds to an abnormal increase in the pressure exerted by the blood on the walls of the arteries. This chronic disease, which affects nearly 20% of the population, can have serious consequences for health (increased risk of stroke and myocardial infarction in particular). If the treatment is not curative, it makes it possible to keep the tension “in normal”. This care also involves following a few rules of healthy living.
Measure your blood pressure
When do we talk about hypertension?
People with hypertension should check their blood pressure regularly. The measurement is carried out with a tensiometer (available in pharmacies) which indicates two values. These two numbers correspond:
• At the systolic pressure: pressure in the arteries measured at the time of the contraction of the heart (systole), it is the maximum pressure.
• Diastolic pressure: pressure in the arteries measured between two contractions, when the heart expands (diastole), this is the minimum pressure.
We talk about high blood pressure:
• If the systolic pressure is above 140 mmHg (millimeters of mercury).
• If the diastolic pressure is above 90 mmHg.
How to measure blood pressure?
Prefer blood pressure monitors whose measurement is carried out at the level of the arm (more precise than at the level of the wrist):
• Measurements should be taken quietly. Sit down for a few minutes before taking the measurement.
• Place the arm, relaxed, in front of you, on a table for example. The elbow should be at heart level.
• Place the cuff directly on the skin (no clothing between the skin and the cuff) according to the direction indicated on the blood pressure monitor.
• Start the measurement : the cuff inflates and deflates.
• If the measurement has been carried out correctly, the blood pressure monitor will show you two figures: your systolic pressure and your diastolic pressure. Check the unit of measurement used by your blood pressure monitor (most often in mmHg).
• Note these values in a notebook that you can show your doctor during a check-up consultation.
How often do you measure blood pressure?
You don’t need to check your blood pressure every day. However, it is recommended to perform more frequent measurements before a check-up appointment, according to the “rule of 3”:
• 3 measurements a few minutes apart.
• 3 times a day (morning, noon and evening).
• During the 3 days preceding the appointment.
The first measurements of the day should be taken before taking the treatment. These values will allow your doctor to know whether the treatment he is prescribing for you is suitable or not.
Apart from these conditions, it is also advisable to measure your blood pressure after a particularly heavy physical effort, a strong emotion or stress. If the measurements exceed 14/9 cmHg or 140/90 mmHg, contact your doctor for advice and possibly make an appointment.
Take your antihypertensive medication regularly
In addition to lifestyle and dietary measures, drug treatment may be prescribed to control your hypertension. These drugs can act on several levels:
• On hormones that regulate blood pressure (angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin II receptor antagonists (ARB II).
• On the flexibility of the arteries (calcium channel blockers).
• On the elimination of excess salt and water from the body (thiazide diuretics).
• On heart rate and blood pressure directly (beta-blockers).
Treatments for high blood pressure must be taken throughout life and on a very regular basis. This is all the more important since hypertension is a silent disease: patients who suffer from it do not always feel the symptoms.
Compliance with treatment remains essential to ensure its effectiveness. To facilitate this observance, take your treatment at a fixed time each day, so that it becomes a ritual and you don’t forget it.
Be careful, if you have forgotten to take your treatment, do not double the dose during the next intake! Always respect the prescribed doses.
Watch your diet in case of hypertension
The priority in case of high blood pressure is to limit salt intake. The daily recommendations of the WHO are to limit consumption to 5 g per day, or a small teaspoon. Contrary to popular belief, the total elimination of salt from the diet is not essential for all hypertensive patients. The salt-free diet can cause dehydration, you must be medically monitored before starting it. Your doctor will be able to advise you which diet is best for you.
Other general dietary advice also applies in cases of hypertension:
• Consume 5 fruits and vegetables a day.
• Consume whole seeds.
• Choose lean meats.
• Limit fats, especially saturated fats.
• Consuming potassium-rich foods.
• Drink regularly, between 1.5 and 2 liters of water per day.
In general, it is preferable to maintain a “healthy weight”, ie a BMI between 18.5 and 25. Being overweight can indeed be a cause of high blood pressure.
High blood pressure control: General lifestyle advice
Physical activity is essential when you suffer from high blood pressure. Adults should engage in moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day. If you want to engage in intense physical activity and you are not used to it, start your sports sessions slowly before gradually increasing the intensity. For endurance sports, it is advisable to keep a pace that allows you to keep talking. If you’re too out of breath to speak, that’s a sign to slow down!
On a daily basis, try to follow these few tips that will allow you to keep your blood pressure within the norm:
• Do not smoke: smoking damages the vessels and increases the stiffness of the arteries, thus promoting hypertension.
• Limit alcohol consumption.
• Prevent other health problems such as diabetes (according to the WHO, nearly 60% of people with diabetes also suffer from high blood pressure).
• Reduce and manage stress by limiting anxiety factors, practicing meditation, yoga, etc.
• Pay attention to your sleep with restful nights of 7 to 8 hours and regular wake-up and bed times.
High blood pressure control – High blood pressure cannot be cured, but it can be very well controlled if you follow these tips. The disease is then balanced and the patients can live quite normally. Regular medical checks are still necessary.
If you experience discomfort or the slightest unusual sensation, this may be a sign that your treatment is no longer quite suitable. Do not wait for your next appointment if it is several months away, ask to see your doctor sooner to reassess your treatment.
10 tips to high blood pressure control
Controlling tension and carrying out a series of routines can help you avoid suffering from hypertension. Thus, the CDC recommends following a series of tips to guarantee a healthier lifestyle:
• 1. Control the weight.
In some cases, controlled weight loss is beneficial to balance stress levels.
• 2. Perform moderate and regular physical exercise.
You should avoid a sedentary lifestyle, for example, walking between half an hour and an hour a day or with other types of aerobic activities such as dancing, aerobics, cycling on alternate days… Taking into account your real possibilities.
• 3. Watch out for stress.
Increased anxiety and emotional stress are dangerous for the heart, as it increases stress levels. Try to relax and avoid stress both at home and at work.
• 4. Avoid tobacco and moderate the consumption of alcohol and coffee.
Avoid smoking, as well as being a passive smoker. Likewise, more than two or three cups of coffee per day or more than two glasses of wine per day are not recommended.
• 5. Reduce salt in meals.
Salt increases tension, so you should not abuse it. You can replace it with celery or aromatic herbs so as not to subtract flavor from meals.
• 6. Avoid fats of animal origin.
Better to incorporate plant-based foods.
• 7. Cook healthier.
Pay special attention to how you prepare food, since it is preferable to steam, bake or grill food, and avoid fried foods and sauces.
• 8. Follow a diet rich in potassium, magnesium and calcium.
The consumption of foods that contain these minerals regulates the levels of tension.
• 9. Consult with the pharmacist about nutritional solutions.
When the diet does not guarantee the necessary contribution of the above nutrients, it may be that you need to reinforce it with food supplements that contain potassium and dairy peptides.
• 10. Monitor blood pressure levels and follow medical recommendations.
Periodic blood pressure checks are essential in adults over 40 years of age, especially if there is a family history of hypertension. These check-ups can be carried out both at the GP and at the pharmacy. In those cases in which hypertension is diagnosed, the doctor will establish the treatment to be followed.