This article shares findings from an interview with an individual who is currently living with hypertension. Hypertension management can be more challenging than it may seem. For the sake of privacy, the interviewee’s name is not shared.
A Widespread Problem Demanding Solutions
Nearly one out of every two adults in the United States has hypertension (also known as high blood pressure) according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Despite this fact, the majority of adults with hypertension in the United States do not have their hypertension under control. Control is the predominant goal for patients diagnosed with hypertension. Doctors will often begin by recommending lifestyle changes, medication, or both, to ensure that their patient's blood pressure levels are within a healthy target range. Integrating these changes into an individual’s routine is often more challenging than one might think. One patient’s experience, in particular, can attest to that:
“My doctor’s instructions sounded simple enough, but it’s a lot to remember. It all takes significant time and energy, which I don’t always have.” - A
Know your Numbers (Monitoring)
High blood pressure is a symptomless “silent killer” that quietly damages blood vessels and can lead to serious health problems. If you’re diagnosed with high blood pressure, it is recommended that you monitor your blood pressure ‘regularly’. Knowing the blood pressure numbers that are within your normal range and maintaining an awareness of your numbers over time can enable proactive, rather than reactive, health care and would allow doctors to detect patterns, which can inform a patient's care plan. Tracking your results over time can also reveal if lifestyle or medication changes are working. Oftentimes, consistent blood pressure monitoring is challenging for those involved:
“I try to remember to take my blood pressure daily as instructed, but all the other things get in the way, and then I’m too tired. And constantly being reminded that I’m out of my target zone when I do take my blood pressure measurement causes me more stress than good.” - A
Before prescribing pharmacological interventions (medication) a doctor will often recommend the following lifestyle changes first:
Eat a well-balanced diet that's low in salt
Enjoy regular physical activity
Maintain a healthy weight
The CDC has released statistics on sodium consumption in America and the numbers are staggering. On average, Americans consume about 3,400 mg of salt per day (1,100 mg more than the recommended daily maximum). That’s roughly 1½ teaspoons, the majority of which (70%) comes from packaged, processed, store-bought, and restaurant foods, according to the Food and Drug Administration. This oversaturation of salt within the food market can make it especially challenging for those who need to avoid excess salt consumption for health reasons, yet sodium is only one facet of a larger problem for hypertensive patients.
According to the American Heart Association, these lifestyle changes are some of the most fundamental to improving blood pressure, and yet are often considered the most challenging tasks patients may face on their journey to control:
“My doctor told me to eat less salt but it’s not so simple, salty meals are everywhere, and managing a specific diet is yet another thing to focus on” - A
Pharmacological Changes (Medication)
Hypertension medication, also known as antihypertensives, is capable of lowering high blood pressure if taken properly and in conjunction with lifestyle changes. Reaching control, however, is difficult due to the various health conditions that could be the cause of hypertension. Doctors trying to prescribe medication often have to go through a trial and error period with their patients, prescribing multiple types of medication (sometimes more than one at a time) to determine which works best for a particular patient. There is a tenuous balance between the benefits of blood pressure control and the drawbacks of the various side effects patients must endure.
“I’ve had periods where I cannot get out of bed, the side effects are so bad. Getting on the right medications can be excruciatingly time-consuming and painful - or at least it has been for me. I’m going on over a year of trying to get on the right meds for my hypertension.” - A
Managing Hypertension is a Lifelong Commitment
What’s important to note is that in order to manage blood pressure successfully, it requires commitment and concentrated effort from not only the patient but their entire support network. The American Family Physician Journal recommends the following:
Establish treatment goals with your doctor
Involve your family in your treatment program—improve your family's diet and exercise. This is helpful for everyone and may prevent other family members from developing hypertension.
Measure your blood pressure at home and keep a daily record—this will help your doctor keep track of your progress.
If you don't think you're making progress in controlling your hypertension, talk with your doctor—communication is the key to success.
Keep your doctor appointments—even if your blood pressure is under control, see your doctor every three to six months.
The Heart Seat™ was built to make managing hypertension easier for people to address many of the aforementioned challenges head-on. Effortlessly monitoring vital signs can be an integral piece of health management for those at risk or struggling to control their hypertension. Casana remains dedicated to improving health outcomes by empowering the world’s caregivers and patients with access to reliable, consistent vital signs.
For more information on hypertension please visit cdc.gov, acc.org, heart.org, or reach out to your primary care provider. If you’d like to stay updated on Casana’s progress, add yourself to our emailing list. To connect with us, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.