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Discharge Instructions for High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

You have been diagnosed with high blood pressure (hypertension). This means the force of blood against your artery walls is too strong. It also means your heart is working hard to move blood. High blood pressure usually has no symptoms, but over time, it can cause serious health problems. High blood pressure raises your risk for heart attack, stroke, heart disease, heart failure, kidney disease, and vision loss. With help from your doctor, you can manage your blood pressure and protect your health.

Blood pressure measurements are given as 2 numbers. Systolic blood pressure is the upper number. This is the pressure when the heart contracts or pumps. Diastolic blood pressure is the lower number. This is the pressure when the heart relaxes between beats.

Blood pressure is categorized as normal, elevated, or stage 1 or stage 2 high blood pressure:

  • Normal blood pressure is systolic of less than 120 and diastolic of less than 80 (120/80) at rest

  • Elevated blood pressure is systolic of 120 to 129 and diastolic less than 80 at rest

  • Stage 1 high blood pressure is systolic is 130 to 139 or diastolic between 80 to 89 at rest

  • Stage 2 high blood pressure is when systolic is 140 or higher or the diastolic is 90 or higher at rest

Taking medicine

  • Learn to measure your own blood pressure. Keep a record of your results. Ask your doctor which readings mean that you need medical attention.

  • Take your blood pressure medicine exactly as directed. Don’t skip doses. Missing doses can cause your blood pressure to get out of control.

  • If you do miss a dose (or doses) check with your healthcare provider about what to do.

  • Don't take medicines that contain heart stimulants, including over-the-counter medicines. Check for warnings about high blood pressure on the label. Ask the pharmacist before purchasing something you haven't used before

  • Check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking a decongestant such as pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine. Some decongestants can worsen high blood pressure.

Lifestyle changes

  • Stay at a healthy weight. Get help to lose any extra pounds. Often times meeting with a dietitian can help you identify changes that can be made to your diet to help with weight loss.

  • Cut back on salt.

    • Limit canned, dried, packaged, and fast foods.

    • Don’t add salt to your food at the table.

    • Season foods with herbs instead of salt when you cook.

    • Request no added salt when you go to a restaurant.

    • The American Heart Association (AHA) says the ideal amount of sodium is no more than 1,500 mg a day.  But because Americans eat so much salt, you can make a positive change by cutting back to even 2,300 mg of sodium a day (1 teaspoon). 

  • Follow the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan. This plan recommends vegetables, fruits, whole gains, and other heart healthy foods.

  • Eat food rich in potassium.

  • Begin an exercise program. Ask your healthcare provider how to get started. The AHA recommends aerobic exercise 3 to 4 times a week for an average of 40 minutes at a time to lower blood pressure, with your provider's approval. Simple activities such as walking or gardening can help.

  • Break the smoking habit. Enroll in a stop-smoking program to improve your chances of success. Ask your healthcare provider about programs and medicines to help you stop smoking.

  • Limit drinks that contain caffeine such as coffee, black or green tea, and cola to 2 per day.

  • Never take stimulants such as amphetamines or cocaine. These drugs can be deadly for someone with high blood pressure.

  • Control your stress. Learn ways to manage stress.

  • Limit alcohol to no more than 1 drink a day for women and 2 drinks a day for men.

Follow-up care

Make a follow-up appointment as directed.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the following:

  • Chest pain or shortness of breath (call 911)

  • Moderate to severe headache

  • Weakness in the muscles of your face, arms, or legs

  • Trouble speaking

  • Extreme drowsiness

  • Confusion

  • Fainting or dizziness

  • Pulsating or rushing sound in your ears

  • Unexplained nosebleed

  • Weakness, tingling, or numbness of your face, arms, or legs

  • Change in vision

  • Blood pressure measured at home that is greater than 180/110

Online Medical Reviewer: Glenn Gandelman MD MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: Lu Cunningham RN BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Quinn Goeringer PA-C
Date Last Reviewed: 4/27/2016
© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.