When we think about our hearts, we may picture a cute shape along with the idea that hearts represent positive emotions including devotion, courage, strength, love and living our lives with those we care about most.
Physically, our hearts are responsible for pumping blood to deliver oxygen and nutrients to all the other parts of our bodies. In other words, the heart is the engine that keeps our bodies moving.
How do you keep your heart safe and healthy while living your best life? By plotting a course to follow your true north for a healthy heart with blood pressure management with these five steps.
1. Aim for normal blood pressure numbers.
- Know your numbers. A normal blood pressure (BP) is considered 130/80. If the top number stays high, or the bottom number stays high, or both it could mean that you have high blood pressure (hypertension).
- It’s normal for your blood pressure to go up and down throughout the day. Talk with your doctor about a normal range for you.
- Your doctor will give you a goal for your blood pressure numbers based on your health, age and other factors.
2. Monitor your blood pressure at home the right way.
You don’t need to wait until you see your doctor to test your blood pressure. You can monitor it right at home if you have a blood pressure monitor. Follow the instructions that came with your monitor. Here are some general guidelines:
- If your doctor recommends it, take your blood pressure twice a day, in the morning and evening.
- Sit in a chair with your arm slightly bent and resting on a table so that your upper arm is on the same level as your heart.
- Use the same arm each time.
- Place the blood pressure cuff on the bare skin of your upper arm.
- Wrap the blood pressure cuff snugly so that the lower edge of the cuff is about 1 inch above the bend of your elbow.
- Do not move, talk or text once you start your monitor.
- Press the start button on the monitor. The cuff will inflate and deflate on its own. The monitor shows your blood pressure.
- Wait one minute and take your blood pressure again. If your monitor does not save your numbers automatically, write them down.
Need help remembering to take your blood pressure?
ChristianaCare offers remote monitoring through Twistle to help patients improve their blood pressure. Patients receive text message reminders to take their BP readings and text them back to the program.
To participate you must be an active ChristianaCare primary care or cardiology patient and have a smartphone or other digital device and internet access.
Interested? Speak with your primary care provider or cardiologist, or send a message to your provider through the ChristianaCare Patient Portal.
3. Understand your medications and take them as prescribed.
Navigating the journey with your blood pressure doesn’t have to be scary. You’re not alone. If you have feelings about the pros and cons of taking blood pressure medicine or questions about the medications you’ve been prescribed, talk with your provider. Together, you will come up with the best treatment plan for you. It’s important to:
- Take your medications as prescribed.
- Have a medicine schedule and follow it.
- Understand all the medicines you take, and when you need to take them.
- Consider using a pill box, calendar or alarm clock (such as the one on your mobile device like a phone or tablet) to help remind you.
Many people may need more than one kind of blood pressure medicine, so know that it may take some time to find a combination that’s right for you.
Some blood pressure medicines have side effects. Talk with your doctor about any side effects that affect your ability to take your medicine. Don’t stop taking your medicine on your own. Remember, medicine helps to control high blood pressure but cannot cure it.
4. Set goals for lifestyle changes to promote healthy blood pressure.
Need help getting healthy foods?
If you need help with access to nutritious foods, you may qualify for the Delaware Food Farmacy, a program from ChristianaCare and Lutheran Community Services. This program provides:
– Food delivery of up 10 meals per week per person.
– Cooking and nutrition education.
– Connections to health services.
Speak with your primary care provider to see if you are eligible.
When it comes to healthy lifestyle changes, it can be challenging to figure out where to begin. Start by changing one habit at a time to develop consistency and confidence and you’ll see positive changes.
Get regular exercise.
When you choose an exercise program or physical activity, pick something you like. Talk with your health provider if you have questions about which types of exercise are right for you. Click here for fast facts about exercise.
Follow a nutritious meal plan: Eating certain foods can help to reduce blood pressure over time.
- Veggies, fruits, and low-fat or nonfat dairy are power foods loaded with calcium, magnesium and potassium. Experts say these nutrients are good for lowering high blood pressure. Include whole grains, lean meats, fish, beans and nuts.
- ChristianaCare offers individual nutrition counseling, outreach programs, sports nutrition services and weight management programs. Visit ChristianaCare Nutrition Services to learn more including program qualifications and the referral process.
Keep tabs on your stress.
- Managing your blood pressure is a lifetime journey, and you’re in it for the long road. Keeping tabs on your stress will help maintain or lower your blood pressure numbers, giving you less to worry about. Try deep breathing exercises like this one: Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Take five slow breaths, feeling your hands rise and fall with each breath. Take your time and appreciate the oxygen you’re inhaling that is immediately going into your bloodstream and heart.
Get a good night’s sleep.
- Not sure if you’re sleeping well? You can wear a fitness device like a smartwatch or heartrate belt to get an idea of where your sleep numbers are. Please know that these are not medical devices, so you cannot solely rely on them for accuracy. For an accurate measure of your sleep quality, visit the ChristianaCare Sleep Center.
- Find someone who is doing these things already and incorporate their support which can help you with questions and accountability to stay on track.
5. Find your inner compass.
Give the gift of good health to yourself and your loved ones by taking care of your heart. Pay attention to signs or symptoms that may indicate a change in your condition and reach out to your primary care physician with any concerns. Remember, you are not alone. Our experts are here to help you on your journey. Make a primary care appointment at ChristianaCare online or call 302-777-0643.
Manage your blood pressure by steering your course to true north — for the love of your health.