high blood pressure


Taking Control of Your Blood Pressure Starts at Home

Baptist Health Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute

If it seems like every other person you know has high blood pressure, you could be right. Literally. And while it might be tempting to downplay this serious medical condition because it is so common, you would be making a mistake.

Hypertension — high blood pressure — affects nearly half of all American adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That statistic alone should be alarming, since hypertension increases the risk for heart attack and stroke, the leading causes of death in the United States. It is also associated with dementia, kidney issues, heart failure, metabolic syndrome and other problems.

An even more alarming statistic is that three in four people with high blood pressure do not have the condition under control, the CDC says.

Ian Del Conde, M.D., director of the Vascular Medicine Program and the Resistant Hypertension Clinic at Baptist Health Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute.


“A person may feel perfectly fine, yet have dangerously elevated blood pressure,” explains Ian Del Conde Pozzi, M.D., director of the Vascular Medicine Program and the Resistant Hypertension Clinic at Baptist Health Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute. “The only way to know that one’s blood pressure is normal is by measuring it.” 

The Basics of Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is measured using two numbers that evaluate the pressure of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries, which carry blood from your heart to other parts of your body. The first number, called systolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats. The second number, called diastolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart rests between beats.

A normal blood pressure level is less than 120/80. Although blood pressure does normally fluctuate throughout the day, it can damage your heart and other organs if it stays elevated over extended periods.

High blood pressure can develop slowly over time and can be related to more than one underlying cause. According to the American Heart Association, nearly 40 percent of people with high blood pressure don’t even know they have it.

Dr. Del Conde wishes people would increase their focus on their health and factors that can have a long-term impact, like blood pressure.

“Health is one of the most valuable things we possess, but unfortunately, most patients do not prioritize their health. Work and money tend to be more pressing concerns for most people. But once you lose your health, most other things matter little,” he says. “The best way to protect your health and stay healthy is with daily habits that become effortless — for example, staying at your ideal weight, staying physically active, eating healthy and not smoking.” 

Step One: Knowing Your Numbers

May is Blood Pressure Awareness Month, a good time to learn more. In an era when digital devices are easily accessible and affordable to measure one’s blood pressure, everyone should know if they are hypertensive, Dr. Del Conde says.

“Blood pressure measurement is no longer confined to a doctor’s office. The vast majority of people are now empowered to monitor their blood pressure at home. You can purchase an accurate validated blood pressure machine and check your blood pressure regularly,” he says.

Concern for blood pressure should not be reserved for older people. Even if you’re in your 20s or 30s, long-term studies show that having elevated blood pressure significantly increases your risk of developing serious health conditions later in life.

While it might not feel like it, high blood pressure quietly damages your body over time. For example, elevated blood pressure forces your heart to pump harder, which causes heart muscle to thicken over time and makes it harder for it to do its job.

Still, home monitoring is not a substitute for regular visits to your physician. “Because hypertension frequently has no symptoms, patients do not seek any medical attention for it,” Dr. Del Conde says. “Regular checkups with your physician can help monitor blood pressure and assess overall cardiovascular health.”

Taking Steps Toward Better Health

To lower blood pressure or keep it in a healthy range, experts recommend eating a well-balanced diet that’s low in salt, limiting alcohol consumption, staying physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, managing stress and taking any medication as prescribed for hypertension.

A recently published study found that practically everyone can lower their blood pressure by lowering their sodium intake, even if they are currently on blood pressure-reducing drugs. The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that 72 percent of study participants experienced a lowering of their systolic blood pressure on a low-sodium diet compared with their usual diet.

It’s important to note that not all the sodium in our diet comes from the salt shaker on the table. Processed foods and snacks of all kinds may have a high amount of sodium, so it’s important to read food labels. The CDC recommends daily consumption of less than 2,300 mg of sodium, the equivalent of one teaspoon.

“Sodium or salt intake has been well-established to have an impact on blood pressure,” said Dr. Del Conde. “Some individuals have a more salt-sensitive high blood pressure than others. Having said that, anyone with high blood pressure should get used to not adding additional salt to food.” 

When Hypertension Proves Tough to Control

For many people, blood pressure can be improved with lifestyle changes. Many medications are also available. But for people who have struggled with the condition, Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute has established a Resistant Hypertension Clinic.

“Resistant hypertension basically means that you have elevated blood pressure despite using multiple appropriate medications,” explains Dr. Del Conde. “We consider a number of factors that could be driving the patient’s high blood pressure. It’s not just a matter of increasing the doses or increasing the number of blood pressure medications.”

The program’s goal is to get a patient’s high blood pressure under control within two or three months of starting treatment. The clinic also provides advanced patient remote monitoring. If sleep health is a contributing factor, patients may be referred to the Institute’s Sleep Medicine and Continuous Improvement program.

Dr. Del Conde notes that care is continuously evolving and advances are on the horizon. For example, he says, “In terms of treatment, there are exciting new advances underway with medications that are administered once every six months or so for hypertension treatment.”

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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