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Nine ways to keep your blood pressure in check

GEHA | November 11, 2020

Blood pressure
Just because hypertension is silent doesn’t mean you should let it sneak up on you.

More than one in three U.S. adults have high blood pressure, yet because there are no warning signs many don't know it. For this reason, high blood pressure, or hypertension, is often called the silent killer.

Just because hypertension is silent doesn’t mean you should let it sneak up on you. Here are several ways to keep high blood pressure at bay.

Eat healthy. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and foods rich in potassium, fiber and protein and lower in salt and saturated fat. The DASH eating plan is proven to help lower blood pressure.

Be physically active. Adults should get at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day, or two hours and 30 minutes a week. Some suggested moderate-intensity exercises include brisk walking or bicycling. GEHA medical plan members can get access to more than 9,700 on-demand fitness videos through Active&Fit Direct.

Maintain a healthy weight. Eating right and getting enough exercise are two key ways to lose (and maintain) weight. Being overweight can increase the risk of high blood pressure, as well as sleep apnea, which further raises your blood pressure. In general, men are at risk of high blood pressure if their waist is greater than 40 inches, and women are at risk if their waist is greater than 35 inches.

Limit your alcohol intake. Drinking one alcoholic beverage per day (or two for men) can potentially lower high blood pressure, but that effect is lost if you drink too much. Drinking more than 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor each day can actually raise your blood pressure and reduce the success of blood pressure medications.

Keep a close eye on caffeine. Researchers are still trying to understand the connection between caffeine and high blood pressure. For people who don’t regularly consume caffeine, just a little bit can raise their blood pressure. In people who regularly have caffeine, it seems to have little effect. To see if caffeine plays a role in your blood pressure, check your pressure within 30 minutes of having a caffeinated drink. If your blood pressure is higher than it usually is, talk to your doctor.

Stop smoking. Cigarettes, e-cigarettes, vaping and other forms of tobacco increase your blood pressure for several minutes while they are consumed. Quitting smoking and tobacco helps your blood pressure return to normal, improve your overall health and reduce your risk for heart disease. Scroll down for ways GEHA can help you quit smoking.

Get plenty of rest. Sleep plays a role in keeping your heart and blood vessels healthy. Not getting enough rest has been tied to a greater risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. Adults generally need between seven to nine hours of sleep per night.

Reduce stress. When we feel stressed we may turn to comfort foods, increase alcohol consumption or increase smoking. All of these factors can contribute to high blood pressure. Take a moment to think about what might be causing you stress and what you can do eliminate or lower that stress. Some ways to do this includes changing expectations, avoiding stress triggers, making time each day to relax and practicing gratitude.

See your doctor regularly. If you are worried about having high blood pressure, home monitoring can help you keep an eye on your blood pressure and let you know if your lifestyle changes are working. Regular doctor’s visits not only help ensure home monitoring is appropriate and done correctly, but provide you with a medical expert who can suggest other medications or treatments.

How do I know if my blood pressure is high?
When doctors take your blood pressure they are looking for two things. The first is blood pressure when the heart is pumping blood. This is systolic pressure. The second is diastolic pressure, or the pressure between heart beats. Hypertension is usually diagnosed if your systolic pressure is 140 or higher or your diastolic is 90 or higher. If you have diabetes, chronic kidney disease or other heart risk factors, you should aim for a blood pressure reading below 130/80.

Do you want to quit smoking? GEHA can help
GEHA wants to be part of your tobacco cessation team. GEHA's medical plans offer 100% coverage to help you quit smoking. No copays, coinsurance, deductibles, dollar limits or in-network or out-of-network differentiation. GEHA's smoking cessation benefits include:

  • Up to four sessions of counseling for each attempt to quit, with two attempts to quit covered each year.
  • Both over-the-counter* (with a physician's prescription) and prescription drugs approved for smoking cessation.

*Nicotine gum is covered, but you must get a prescription from your doctor or receive the drugs as part of a plan-approved tobacco cessation program for it to be covered with no copays and coinsurance.

For more information, call GEHA Customer Care at 800.821.6136 or consult your GEHA Plan Brochure. For more information on the FEHB tobacco cessation benefit, visit OPM's Quit Smoking webpage.

"How to prevent high blood pressure.", National Institutes of Health, 28 February, 2017.
"10 ways to control high blood pressure without medication.", Mayo Clinic, 10 April, 2018.
"How much sleep do I need?", Centers for Disease Control, 2 March, 2017.