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Dear Doctor: What Steps Can I Take to Bring My Blood Pressure Under Control?

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High blood pressure can lead to more serious health conditions if left unchecked. If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure or are at risk, there are a number of steps that you can take to help become more knowledgeable and bring it under control.

1. Know how blood pressure is measured – Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). The systolic blood pressure is the top number, and the diastolic blood pressure is the bottom number. 

2. What is a normal blood pressure reading? – A systolic (top) blood pressure below 120 mmHg is normal. Any systolic blood pressure above 130 mmHg is abnormal. A diastolic (bottom) blood pressure below 80 mmHg is normal. Any diastolic blood pressure above 80 mmHg is abnormal.

3. Check your blood pressure on a regular basis – If you are over 40, you should check your blood pressure at least once every year.  If you have a family history of high blood pressure, or if you have had one abnormal reading, please check your blood pressure more frequently. If you are not sure how often you should check your blood pressure, please ask your doctor.

4. Buy a home blood pressure cuff and get it calibrated – it’s the best way to check your blood pressure frequently. If your home blood pressure results are not accurate, you may think that your blood pressure is high when it is not, or you may think that your blood pressure is normal when it is abnormal. Please bring your home blood pressure device with you whenever you visit your doctor. They can check your device’s reading against the machine in the office and make sure it is working properly.

5. Keep a home blood pressure log/diary – If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, make sure to record your blood pressure readings. Include details like what type of activities you were doing around the time when you checked your blood pressure. Bring your diary with you to your appointments. This can help your doctor adjust your blood pressure medications, if needed.

6. Follow heart healthy recommendations for diet and exercise – Your doctor may tell you to become more active, change your diet or lose weight. Please pay careful attention to this advice. Changes in your lifestyle are often more effective at lowering blood pressure than medicine

7. Do not skip your blood pressure medications – If your blood pressure readings are normal, that means your blood pressure medications are working, and you should not stop taking them! Even one-day interruptions of some medications can cause your blood pressure to increase or rebound to high levels. If you need to stop your blood pressure medications for any reason, please check with your doctor first.

8. High blood pressure is a lifelong disease – Your blood pressure can change over time so always remain vigilant about checking your blood pressure, taking your medications and following up with your doctor.

Siddharth Prakash, MD, PhD, is an adult cardiologist specializing in congenital heart disease, aortic valve disease and thoracic aortic aneurysms. Dr. Prakash provides patient care at the UT Physicians Cardiology clinic located in the Texas Medical Center.  For more information or to schedule an appointment at UT Physicians, please call 832-325-7211.

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