High blood pressure affects nearly 1 in 3 adults. But here’s the alarming part: about half of these adults don't have it under control. When high blood pressure is left unchecked, the risk for heart attack, stroke, heart failure and kidney disease skyrockets.

“Because high blood pressure contributes to many dangerous conditions, you need to take action. The good news is that making simple changes can go a long way in lowering your blood pressure and preventing complications,” BCH internist Prachi Patel, DO, explained to nearly 140 people during free health lectures held on April 6 at the Plaza Conference Center in Longmont.

Know Your Numbers

Blood pressure is a measure of the force of blood pushing on the walls of the arteries. High blood pressure occurs when this force is too great.

Dr. Patel said, “Everyone’s blood pressure fluctuates throughout the day, usually dropping when you sleep, for instance, and spiking with stress or exercise. But when blood pressure is routinely high, that's when it can cause lasting damage.”

Here’s how blood pressure is classified:

  • Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80 mm Hg.
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure) is when your blood pressure is 140/90 mm Hg or higher.
  • Pre-hypertension is when your blood pressure ranges between120/80 and 139/89 mm Hg. Pre-hypertension puts you at elevated risk for eventually developing full-blown hypertension.

When to Start Medication

Dr. Patel shared that recently revised guidelines have set new targets for when a person should be treated with medications to control blood pressure.

“Newer evidence allowed for some changes in the way we think about high blood pressure,” she said. “According to recent guidelines – JNC 8 Guidelines – medications should be initiated in a generally healthy adult when blood pressure is 150/90 mm Hg or higher in adults 60 years and older, or 140/90 mm Hg or higher in adults younger than 60 years.”

She warned, however, that it might be important for some individuals to start on high blood pressure medication for certain health conditions, even when their blood pressure is in the normal or prehypertensive range.

Ways to Control Blood Pressure Without Medication

Dr. Patel stated that a healthy lifestyle can play an important role in controlling high blood pressure. If you can successfully control your blood pressure with a healthy lifestyle, you might avoid, delay or reduce the need for medication.

These are her suggestions for bringing down blood pressure numbers without medication:

  • Lose weight. If you're overweight, losing even 5 pounds can lower your blood pressure.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Dr. Patel said you should aim to eat a diet rich in whole fruits and vegetables and whole grains. Here are some other tips she had for adopting a healthy diet:
  1. Minimize processed foods. Eliminate trans fats and high fructose corn syrup. Also, cut back on refined sugar.
  2. Avoid factory farmed animal products.
  3. Eat more good fats – fish, nuts and seeds.
  4. Eat plenty of protein.
  • Limit alcohol use. Too much alcohol can contribute to high blood pressure. Dr. Patel said men should have no more than two drinks per day, and one drink per day for women.
  • Avoid smoking. Cigarette smoking increases blood pressure.
  • Enjoy regular exercise. Try to get 30-40 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity three to four times per week.
  • Minimize stress. Dr. Patel said that you can try to minimize stress and promote happiness through meditation or prayer. She explained how journaling and reflecting on the positive at the end of each day has been shown to reduce stress.

Dr. Patel is board certified in internal medicine. She enjoys the full spectrum of primary care with an emphasis on preventative medicine. Appointments are available by calling Frontier Internal Medicine at (303) 415-4155.

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