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Manage Your Blood Pressure to Stay Healthy and Stay Home

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A Simple Checklist

The threat of a virus such as the novel 2019 coronavirus (COVID-19) has people focused on what they need to do to stay healthy. If you're someone with high blood pressure, diabetes or kidney disease, focusing on staying as healthy as possible is a way of life.

When you have a chronic health condition, getting sick can make you more susceptible to serious complications. That's why being healthy and avoiding illness is so important.

One of the most effective ways to do that is to double-down on keeping your blood pressure under control. That not only helps you avoid developing complications that come with high blood pressure over time — it also helps you avoid making unnecessary doctor or emergency room visits and risk being exposed to illness.

Follow this checklist to stay on track with keeping your blood pressure under control:

Feed your body well

Good nutrition not only helps you manage your blood pressure, it also improves your overall health. Focus on foods high in fiber and low in salt, calories and fat. That means choosing vegetables, fruits and whole grains, along with lean proteins. Limit sugar, refined carbohydrates, processed foods and alcohol.

Make exercise a habit

Studies have shown that taking blood pressure medication along with getting regular exercise helps reduce systolic blood pressure (the top number of your blood pressure reading). Increasing your heart and breathing rates with exercise strengthens your heart, and it pumps with less effort.

You don't have to run marathons to benefit from exercise. Work up to 30 minutes per day of regular, moderate activity such as:

  • Walking
  • Using the stairs
  • Bike riding
  • Gardening
  • Doing household chores

Track your blood pressure

Monitoring your blood pressure daily allows you and your doctor to see a "time-lapse" picture of your blood pressure. That's important to confirm that your medication and healthy choices are working. Take your blood pressure at the same time each day for consistency, and record it in a daily log.

Maintain a supply of medication

If you're taking medication to manage blood pressure, you should maintain a supply at home so you don't miss any doses. Talk with your doctor about extending your prescription to a 90-day supply in case you have to be at home for an extended period.

Use the pharmacy drive-thru or have your medications delivered to avoid crowds and exposure to a virus.

Keep in touch with your doctor

Your doctor is on your side and wants to see you as healthy as possible. That's why you need to check in with your doctor if your blood pressure consistently creeps up.

It's important to rein in rising blood pressure early on, rather than letting it go unchecked and allowing complications to develop. The solution may be as simple as adjusting your medication. Your doctor can make adjustments or other recommendations after talking with you by phone, eliminating the need for an office visit.

Daniel Edmundowicz, MS, MD, FACP, FACC

Dr. Edmundowicz is the Medical Director of the Temple Heart and Vascular Institute and has a special interest in cardiovascular disease prevention. He is national authority on the applications of atherosclerosis imaging to cardiovascular disease prevention and risk factor modification. He has lectured widely and published more than 80 peer-reviewed articles. He leads public health and epidemiologic studies and participates in multi-center clinical trials. Dr. Edmundowicz is a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology and past president of the ACC’s Pennsylvania Chapter. He is also a member of the American Heart Association and National Lipid Association.

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