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Health ABCs from a PA-C: The latest BEAT on high blood pressure

High blood pressure is a common medical concern. It’s often referred to as “the silent killer” because it causes much damage to the heart before symptoms are felt. Luckily, it’s easy to diagnose with regular wellness checks. Annual wellness exams are generally covered by insurance, too.

What is normal?

In a normally healthy person, high blood pressure (hypertension) is defined as > 140 (systolic value)/ 90 (diastolic value) from two random readings. Mild hypertension is defined as systolic value of 140-159 and diastolic value of 90-99.

Systolic pressure measures the peak pressure in the arteries when the ventricles contract, and diastolic pressure measures the minimum amount of pressure in the arteries when the ventricles are filling with blood. Both numbers are important, and any elevation in either number is used to diagnose hypertension.

Action steps

If you have mild hypertension, you may wonder if you should start prescription therapy. Evidence shows that treating mild hypertension reduces your risk for a heart attack in the future. But you have options to try before starting one of the many pharmaceuticals.

  1. Yoga has shown to improve blood pressure if practiced regularly once daily for 6-12 months.
  2. Daily meditation for at least 20 minutes has shown to reduce blood pressure.
  3. Garlic has a modest effect on your blood pressure and can be found in pill form.
  4. Fish Oil lowers triglycerides, which improves blood vessel health, which in turn reduces cardiovascular risk.

Consult with your provider to see what therapy is best for you.

Monitoring your blood pressure is an important aspect of staying healthy. Everyone should have at least one general wellness check (which screens for medical problems such as high blood pressure) with a provider annually.

With the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, most insurers are now required to cover an annual wellness exam. Check with your insurer to confirm you benefits prior to making an appointment.

Anna Gunderson, PA-C is a nationally certified Physician Assistant. She works at the Driggs and Victor Health Clinics and is currently accepting new patients. Call (208) 354-2302 to make an appointment or visit tvhcare.org for more information on the services offered at Teton Valley Health Care.

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