Counseling patients on high blood pressure

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The statistics are troubling: About one in three adults and nearly one in three women in the United States has high blood pressure (HBP). The condition itself usually has no signs or symptoms. Someone can have HBP for years without knowing it. During this time, HBP can damage the heart, blood vessels, kidneys, and other organs.

Because HBP is a symptomless condition, it’s often a challenge for patients who feel perfectly healthy to seek, accept, and adhere to treatment—particularly with medications that may have adverse effects.

The pharmacist’s role

As medication adherence advocates and patient educators who communicate with both patients and their physicians, pharmacists are ideally positioned to counsel patients on HBP. Many pharmacies offer electronic blood pressure monitoring, and some include blood pressure checks as part of screenings, health fairs, and community outreach. 

Encourage patients to keep an up-to-date record of their blood pressure numbers. Explain that knowing their blood pressure numbers is important, even when they’re feeling fine. If their blood pressure is normal, they can work with their health care team to keep it that way. If their blood pressure is too high, treatment may help prevent damage to their body’s organs.

Make sure patients understand the concept of HBP: a commonly used example likens blood pressure to water in a garden hose; blood pressure is the force of blood against the artery walls. Educate patients on systolic/diastolic pressure and what constitutes a normal blood pressure reading. 

Point out that if they’re being treated for HBP and have repeat readings in the normal range, their blood pressure is under control, but they still have the condition. Counsel patients to continue seeing their physician and adhere to their treatment plan to keep their HBP under control.

Explain the role lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet, exercise, salt reduction, and smoking cessation can play in reducing HBP. For patients taking HBP meds, reinforce the importance of staying on their meds. 

Patient tips 

Offer patients the following tips:

  • Take all the HBP medications your physician prescribes. Know the names and doses of the medications and how to take them. If you have questions about your meds, talk to your pharmacist or physician.
  • Make sure you refill your medications before they run out. Take your medications exactly as prescribed—don’t skip days or cut tablets in half.
  • If you’re having adverse effects from your medications, inform your pharmacist and talk with your physician. He or she may need to adjust the doses or prescribe other medications. You shouldn’t decide on your own to stop taking your medications.
  • Be aware of possible drug interactions with OTCs. Some OTC prodcuts note on the label not to take if you have HBP. When in doubt, ask your pharmacist for guidance.

Resources

Refer patients to the National High Blood Pressure Education Program within the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health. The American Heart Association offers a wealth of HBP information, including an HBP Risk Calculator.

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