Living With Hypertension

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Since hypertension usually does not cause any symptoms, you may not think of putting effort into coping with the condition. However, a diagnosis means that you must dedicate yourself to taking anti-hypertensive medications and making some dietary and lifestyle modifications. High blood pressure is an important risk factor for various diseases, including heart attacks, strokes, and kidney disease. So, although you may feel fine, your body needs you to help keep hypertension from causing additional concerns. You may also find that managing high blood pressure can take its toll on you, and that's where emotional and social support can help.

Physical

If you have hypertension, you need to maintain healthy habits to optimize your blood pressure. As far as physical limitations related to hypertension, there are very few, and your regular daily activity need not be limited.

Healthy Habits

Making lifestyle changes is a critical component of any plan to lower blood pressure. In many cases, lifestyle changes may be the only treatment needed to lower blood pressure to optimal levels. 

Changes that you need to make if you have hypertension include:

  • Lose weight if you are above a healthy weight
  • Quit smoking if you smoke
  • Eat a healthy diet rich in low-fat dairy, fruits, and vegetables, and low in saturated fat
  • Limit sodium (salt) intake to no more than 2,300 milligrams a day
  • Participate in regular aerobic exercise—at least 30 minutes a day, most days of the week
  • Limit alcohol intake to no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women

Physical Limitations

In general, hypertension should not require you to restrict what activities you engage in, allowing you to participate in athletic activities, travel, and to enjoy life to the fullest.

Some doctors may recommend that you avoid "thrill rides" at excessive speeds. And, if you have a heart condition that causes chest pain or if you experience breathing difficulties, you should avoid activities that could make you short of breath. 

Emotional

Chronic conditions of any kind can take an emotional toll over time, whether that's due to the need to take medications, monitor your health, change your habits, or something else.

There is a link between hypertension and depression, but the cause-and-effect relationship is not well established. If you experience sadness or a sense of hopelessness for a prolonged period of time, you should talk to your doctor. If you are diagnosed with depression, a combination of cognitive therapy, counseling, and medical treatment may help alleviate your symptoms. 

Likewise, stress is believed to play a role in causing hypertension, although the link is not completely clear from a scientific perspective. If you have had unchecked stress for years, it may also worsen hypertension and/or hamper your treatment efforts.

Stress can be managed with counseling, a change in mindset, or with medication. Sometimes, the best way to deal with stress is to make real and practical changes in your schedule or to modify some of the demands that you have in your life.

Finally, because hypertension does not cause obvious symptoms, some people who have the condition are in denial about it. They may refuse to take medication or to make lifestyle modifications that can have an impact on their blood pressure. This is more often recognized by friends and family than it is by a person who has hypertension.

If this sounds like a loved one, you can try to directly talk about your concerns, but be aware that people are ultimately responsible for their own actions and wellness. There is a limit to how much you can get another person to accept that he or she has to take action. If you are the one with hypertension, keep this fact in mind—realizing that denial is a common and natural response to a diagnosis, but one that must be overcome if you are to live your healthiest life.

Social

Hypertension does not impact one's social life in the way that some other conditions can, requiring individuals to miss out on engagements and the like. That said, changes that can help improve your high blood pressure can have social implications.

For instance, if you have to quit smoking or decrease your alcohol intake, this can affect your time with friends if your interactions are heavily centered around on these activities. Many people with hypertension also cannot eat many of the dishes that are served at social gatherings because they may be high in salt, cholesterol, or calories.

Whether you decide to explain this to others is completely up to you, but most people who have hypertension are able to maintain regular social interactions, perhaps with minor adjustments, rather than limitations. 

Support

Support groups for hypertension can be hard to come by, though you may be able to find one (in person or online) related to an underlying condition prompting your hypertension if you have one.

That said, it's worth asking others if they too are managing hypertension if you are open to sharing your diagnosis. Many people who have high blood pressure share tips and recipes for tasty, blood pressure-lowering dishes, and you may find these interactions valuable as you work toward your goals.

Practical

If you have hypertension, you can take some practical steps to make sure that you reach your treatment goals. 

Check (and Track) Your Pressure

Your blood pressure must be checked regularly, every one to six months, to ensure the effectiveness of your course of therapy. You can have this done at your doctor's office or, perhaps, a local community center or pharmacy. 

Some people with hypertension find it useful to monitor blood pressure periodically using a home blood pressure measuring device. These types of devices are generally very easy to use and can be relatively inexpensive. 

Devices such as smartphones, laptops, and smartwatches can save recordings of your blood pressure if they are attached to a blood pressure monitoring device. Some gadgets may also transmit information to your doctor's office, or even your health insurance carrier (if you so choose). These records can help your doctor manage your condition, especially if your blood pressure is not stable.

Time Your Medication

Timing and wearing off of anti-hypertensive medication doses can also have an impact on your blood pressure. In general, it is best to take your medication as prescribed and to evenly space out your doses throughout the day. 

Some people notice that taking medications at certain times of the day works better to sustain a target blood pressure for a longer period of time. 

Pay Attention to Blood Pressure Triggers 

Some people notice that their blood pressure increases after consuming salt, while others have an increase in response to stress or excessive physical activity. Be aware of what specifically triggers you, so you can do your best to avoid these factors, if possible.

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