If there is one thing nurses see nearly every single day, it’s high blood pressure in patients. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three Americans has high blood pressure and more have borderline high blood pressure, so being able to help patients with the condition is essential.

May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month, and nurses know the urgent need of giving accurate information to help patients. If left untreated or improperly treated, this condition can have devastating, long-term impacts on cardiovascular health and throughout the body—that’s why it’s often called the “silent killer.” It’s also the reason many people don’t see it as the serious health threat it is.

Here are four ways you can help your patients comprehend the risks.

Understand Why High Blood Pressure Is Serious

Many patients, particularly those who are fairly symptom free, often don’t pay attention to their numbers. But they also often don’t realize how untreated high blood pressure can wreak havoc on the human body. According to the American Heart Association, blood pressure impacts everything from your heart health to your vision. One of the biggest struggles nurses have with prevention behaviors is getting people to understand that maintaining a normal blood pressure is critically important to overall health.

Realize It’s Manageable

Thankfully, the condition can be treated with effective and available treatments including medications. Generally, patients are put on a dose of blood pressure medication that helps keep their numbers in the right range. Lifestyle changes are even more manageable and sustainable for some patients. While not everyone can reduce their blood pressure with lifestyle changes, many people can reduce it so they require less medical intervention. Losing weight helps reduce the workload of the systems in the body and therefore can help reduce blood pressure. Eating healthier foods, getting exercise, reducing stress, and getting enough good-quality sleep also helps.

Accept It’s Sometimes Genetic

Plenty of exceptionally healthy people still have high blood pressure. As a disease with a genetic component, high blood pressure often runs in families. For some people, doing everything you’re supposed to do to reduce blood pressure still doesn’t work. The important thing is to make sure you get it treated. Help patients understand that if what they’re doing isn’t working, they still have to get those numbers in a good zone.

Be Alert for Red Flags

Lots of people can check their blood pressure at home or in the local drug store and that’s a great additional tool. But patients who do that should understand that that’s not all they have to do. Increasing blood pressure sometimes indicates something else is going on. If blood pressure suddenly spikes or drops or if symptoms start to resurface, make sure patients know they need to check in with you.

With education, interventions, and modifications, most people can successfully control their blood pressure. The biggest factor is making sure patients understand why it’s so essential to treat the condition before it escalates into something worse.

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Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil is a freelance writer based in Bolton, Massachusetts.
Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

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