Once your doctor has determined that you have hypertension, there are several things you can do to help yourself. If you smoke, stop. If you’re overweight, just losing 10 to 20 pounds will often significantly lower your blood pressure. An aerobic exercise program, if practiced regularly for at least 20 minutes three times a week, will also help bring blood pressure down. Avoid heavy weight training and isometric exercises, which can increase blood pressure.
Limit the amount of salt in your diet. Reduce your alcohol consumption to at most two drinks a day or eliminate alcohol from your diet completely.
If stress contributes to your hypertension, learning a relaxation technique practicing it regularly may help keep your blood pressure within bounds.
If your doctor has prescribed antihypertension medication for you, don’t forget to take it.
I’ve heard that an aspirin a day can lower the risk of heart attack. Does that mean everyone should take a dally aspirin?
Along with reducing pain, lowering fever, and relieving inflammation, aspirin also blocks certain clotting factors in the blood. For this reason many physicians recommend that patients with a high risk of heart attack and stroke take one aspirin tablet (325 milligrams) daily or every other day as a form of preventive medicine.
At least two major studies have indicated that at this low dosage aspirin can actually reduce by half the risk of heart attack in healthy, middle-aged men as well as lower the risk of a second stroke or a second heart attack by 25 to 50 percent. A more recent study shows that women, too, may benefit from aspirin the raby.
Another study of aspirin’s blood-thinning properties involved patients with a heartbeat irregularity called atrial fibrillation that afflicts more than a million Americans. Test results suggest that daily doses of a single aspirin tablet (or another blood-thinning drug called warfarin) reduce stroke risk in both men and women patients by 80 percent.
Good as it sounds, aspirin is not entirely safe, and the decision to undertake aspirin therapy should be made with your doctor. Although aspirin is an over-the-counter drug, it should not be taken by people who are anemic, who have peptic ulcers, or who bleed easily from other causes. Aspirin can also be hazardous to pregnant and nursing women, asthma sufferers, and individuals with stomach problems.
Incidently, neither acetaminophen (Tylenol, for example) nor ibuprofen (Nuprin) is a viable aspirin substitute in this case. Both are comparable painkillers, but don’t thin the blood.