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February 13, 2008 > Learn How to Control High Blood Pressure

Learn How to Control High Blood Pressure

Free Seminar Examines Medical Intervention and Lifestyle Changes

High blood pressure is a disease that can easily sneak up on people without any warning, according to Dr. Steven A. Curran, M.D., a Washington Township Medical Group family practice physician.
"Hypertension is definitely a silent disease," he says. "A majority of patients have no symptoms at all. It's typically picked up through routine health exams or screenings, which are an important part of a patient's preventive health care package."
Next Wednesday, Feb. 20, Dr. Curran and Megan Tahran, PharmD, a critical care pharmacist at Washington Hospital, will present a free Health & Wellness seminar focusing on how patients can identify and better control their blood pressure.
Learn why blood pressure matters
Dr. Curran will help audience members understand what high blood pressure is, including the "magic" numbers that indicate whether blood pressure is normal or not, why knowing about blood pressure is important, as well as various methods of treatment.
Seeking a doctor's advice early on is one of the best ways to get a handle on high blood pressure, Dr. Curran says. He highly recommends taking advantage of free community health screenings, such as the ones offered at Washington Hospital.
The Washington Community Health Resource Library offers free blood pressure and Body Mass Index (BMI) screenings using a freestanding machine in the library. Screenings are available Monday through Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in Washington West, 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont.
Dr. Curran stresses that patients should always maintain their routine health exams with their physician to discuss the numbers they receive when participating in a screening, since high blood pressure can play a role in several other diseases.
Most notably, hypertension is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, which Dr. Curran jointly refers to as "Public Health Enemy No. 1," as they are the leading causes of death in the United States.
Early intervention works wonders
The good news, Dr. Curran says, is that high blood pressure can be easily controlled when people take the right steps.
"If caught early, we can minimize high blood pressure's impact and often manage it without medication," he points out. "Hypertension is one area where diet and exercise can have a major impact."
Many times patients suffer from what Dr. Curran refers to as "paralysis by analysis" when trying to decide on the best diet and exercise plan for them. Because of all the conflicting, confusing information that is available, patients may end up doing nothing out of frustration. When in doubt, he says, patients with high blood pressure should talk to their doctor and focus on the basics of healthy diet and exercise, which may include beginning to cut down on animal fats and slowly increasing physical activity.
When diet and exercise aren't enough
While lifestyle changes can help many patients control their blood pressure numbers, some patients require medication. Megan Tahran will talk to audience members about the different medications used to control high blood pressure, including:
* Diuretics
* Beta-blockers
* ACE inhibitors
* Calcium channel blockers (CCBs)
Tahran will discuss what the different medications do, potential side effects, warning signs patients should be aware of when taking the medications and which medications should not be taken in conjunction with one another.
"I would like the patients to be educated enough to be involved in their own care," Tahran says. "Many patients see multiple physicians who may prescribe them several different types of medications. My main goal during this seminar is to empower the patients by teaching them about the medications they're taking, why they are taking them and what they should expect."
Another important element of her talk, Tahran says, will be defining side effects, especially with beta-blockers, which may slow the heart rate, causing people get tired as the medication works to lower blood pressure. She points out that for most patients the tired feeling will lessen after a week or two. If the fatigue does not lessen in that time period, patients should seek advice from their physician.
By teaching audience members how to tell the difference between normal and abnormal side effects of the medications, Tahran will help them know when to seek medical attention if something is wrong.
Understanding medications
Certain populations, Tahran says, may not be helped by certain medications, and she will talk about why these people are prescribed different classes of medications that they may not recognize.
After learning about the various types of medications available to treat high blood pressure, Tahran hopes her audience will take home with them a few important messages about blood pressure medications:
* Certain over-the-counter medications, including some for coughs and colds, can cause an increase in blood pressure. Patients should discuss these with their doctor.
* If a person visits multiple physicians for care, they must make sure each doctor knows all the medications that are being prescribed to avoid potentially hazardous drug interactions.
* Be aware of potentially dangerous side effects, such as extreme fatigue or weakness, nausea, headaches, vomiting, chest pain and altered mental status. Family members should also be aware of when to call the doctor.
In the end, Tahran says the most important piece of information she would like to impart is how critical it is to follow your physician's orders.
"It's hard when patients ask the pharmacists to talk about the side effects because sometimes they become fearful," she says. "But it's very important to take prescribed medications as instructed and discuss any side effects with their physician," she says.
To learn more about upcoming classes and seminars at Washington Hospital, visit, click on "The Community," and select "Community Seminars & Health Classes" from the drop-down menu; or tune in to Comcast Channel 78 - InHealth, A Washington Hospital Channel. See the television schedule in this section.

What: Free Health & Wellness seminar
Topic: Do You Have High Blood Pressure and Want to Learn How to Control It?
When: Wednesday, February 20, 1 to 3 p.m.
Where: Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium, Rooms A, B & C
Call: (800) 963-7070 to register

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