6 heart-health points to drive home with patients

February is traditionally the month for lovers, but it is also American Heart Month, which aims to help patients make heart-healthy choices. With more than 100 million American adults living with high blood pressure, the AMA is offering advice to help physicians improve their patients’ heart health and cut the risk of heart attack and stroke.

The AMA has developed online tools to support physicians with the latest evidence-based information and resources to help manage their patients’ high blood pressure. These resources are available to all physicians and health systems as part of Target: BP™, a national initiative co-led by the AMA and American Heart Association.

Target: BP offers annual, recurring gold-level recognition for all participating sites that achieve hypertension control rates of 70 percent or higher among their adult patient population, and participation level recognition for those sites that prioritize improving blood pressure control each year and submit data. In 2018, more than 800 organizations were recognized for their efforts focusing on blood-pressure control within the populations they serve.

“As the calendar turns to American Heart Month, we are calling on all Americans to take control of their heart health by knowing and monitoring their blood pressure levels and making healthy lifestyle changes that can significantly reduce the risk of serious health consequences associated with high blood pressure,” said AMA President Barbara L. McAneny, MD.

“Nearly half of all U.S. adults are living with high blood pressure and at increased risk of heart attack and stroke,” Dr. McAneny said. “We know that by empowering more patients to monitor and control their blood pressure, we will continue to not only help improve health outcomes for patients, but also reduce health care costs.”

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How to help hypertensive patients battle blood pressure at home

The AMA offers these six tips for physicians to share with patients.

Know blood pressure numbers. Encourage your patients to visit LowerYourHBP.org to better understand their numbers and to take necessary steps to get their high blood pressure under control. Doing so will help patients reduce their risk of heart attack or stroke.

Commit to a treatment plan to manage high BP. Work with patients to create an individualized treatment plan. This should include healthy lifestyle changes that patients can realistically stick to long-term to help maintain a lower blood pressure and lower the risk for negative health consequences.

Be more physically active. Regular physical activity can help reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure. Healthy adults should get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity, or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activity.

Eat a healthy diet. Making simple dietary changes can help patients manage or prevent high blood pressure. Patients should consume less sodium and cut the amount of packaged, processed foods they take in—especially those foods with added sodium and sugar. Patients should also eat foods that are rich in potassium and reduce their consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.

Maintain or achieve a healthy weight. When a patient is 20 pounds or more overweight, it places them at an increased risk of developing high blood pressure. If a patient is overweight, recommend steps to lose weight, such as exercise or a heart-healthy diet.

If patients drink alcohol, they should do so in moderation. That is moderation as defined by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. For women, that should be up to one drink per day and two drinks daily for men. Alcohol should only be consumed by adults of legal drinking age.

An AMA membership means you’re motivating millions to control hypertension. When the nation’s health is on the line, you can count on the AMA to be part of the solution.