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    What you need to know to control this silent killer

    Most people assume they only need to take their medication when they are sick, meaning when they experience symptoms. But in the case of hypertension, this type of thinking could kill you.

    Patients who have hypertension are often completely asymptomatic – that’s the reason hypertension is often called the silent killer. The belief that symptoms such as headaches, nose bleeds, nervousness, sweating, difficulty sleeping or facial flushing are signals to take blood pressure medication is a myth.

    Nonadherence to hypertension medication is a huge challenge. Research shows that one in three American adults suffer from high blood pressure, but only 47 percent effectively treat their disease to keep blood pressure levels under control.

    Higher risk for heart attack, stroke

    Express Scripts’ specialist pharmacist Ed Dannemiller recently spoke with a patient who was 40 days late to refill her blood pressure prescription.

    “When I asked her about the delay, she said she only takes her medication when she feels stressed or has a headache. The problem with this is that patients with hypertension may feel perfectly fine before suffering a heart attack or stroke,” says Dannemiller.

    Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80, but consistent levels above 140/90 require medical attention. Simply keeping a patient’s blood pressure under control decreases the risk of heart attack by 25 percent, stroke by 33 percent and heart failure by 50 percent.

    But the only way to have a precise measurement is through a blood pressure reading.

    Become an engaged patient

    “I encourage patients to become engaged in their own health and keep track of their blood pressure readings, which can help prevent unnecessary hospitalizations or ER visits,” Dannemiller explains.

    For patients with white-coat hypertension – those whose blood pressure rises from stress in the doctor’s office – a home blood pressure monitor is a good option.

    Dannemiller offers these useful tips for patients monitoring their pressure at home:

    * Take blood pressure readings in a seated position with arm at the heart level
    * To regulate the monitor, discard the first reading
    * Keep a record of your blood pressure levels to bring to your doctor’s appointment

    This additional data will help your physician better understand your condition and make better medical decisions to ensure healthier outcomes.

    Lifestyle changes can help

    In addition to staying adherent to blood pressure medication, regardless of symptoms, the following lifestyle modifications also can improve cardiovascular health:

    * Consume a heart-healthy diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables and low in salt, fat and cholesterol
    * Engage in regular aerobic physical activity
    * Manage your weight, limit alcohol consumption and do not smoke

    Value of specialized understanding

    “Even with lifestyle modifications, most patients need at least two medications to reach their blood pressure goal,” says Dannemiller.

    Intervention and education from specialist pharmacists provide an important resource to improve medication adherence. When patients understand the value of their treatment and embrace good cardiovascular health, they bring a little more noise to this silent killer. For more information, visit

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