5 Things to Avoid to Help Your Heart

By the American Heart Association

1. Decongestants.

According to the AHA, people with high blood pressure should be aware that the use of decongestants may raise blood pressure. Many over-the-counter cold and flu preparations contain decongestants such as oxymetazoline, phenylephrine, and pseudoephedrine, which increase blood pressure.

2. Sleep Apnea.

Some 12 million Americans have sleep apnea, according to National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute estimates. It is a potentially life-threatening sleep disorder in which tissues in the throat collapse and block the airway. The brain forces the sleeper awake enough to cough or gulp air. Pauses in breathing can contribute to severe fatigue during the day. Sleep apnea is also a risk factor for such medical problems as high blood pressure, heart failure, diabetes, and stroke.

3. Stress.

In addition to the emotional discomfort you feel when faced with a stressful situation, your body reacts by releasing stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) into the blood. These prepare the body for the fight-or-flight response by constricting blood vessels and making the heart beat faster. Constriction of blood vessels and an increase in heart rate do raise blood pressure temporarily; when the stress reaction goes away, blood pressure returns to its prestress level. Chronic stress can cause the body to go into high gear on and off for days or weeks at a time. And while it may not directly cause high blood pressure, chronic stress can lead to unhealthy lifestyle choices that do affect blood pressure. It is important to handle stress in a healthy way, especially if you already have high blood pressure.

4. Sodium.

In some people sodium increases blood pressure because it holds excess fluid in the body, placing an added burden on the heart. If your blood pressure is 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or above, your doctor may recommend a low-salt diet or advise you to avoid salt altogether.

5. Not Taking Your Medicine.

In addition to lifestyle modifications, you may need one or more prescription medications to keep your blood pressure at a healthy level. Keeping track of your prescribed medications can be challenging, but your heart health depends on it. Writing things down or using a health-tracking app will make managing your medications a lot easier. “Remember that you’re on blood pressure–lowering medicine for a reason. Stopping, skipping, or taking them differently can increase your risk of debilitating or deadly consequences such as stroke or heart attack,” says Raymond Townsend, MD, an AHA spokesperson and the director of the Hypertension Program at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. “If you think you need to do something differently, talk to your healthcare provider first, before making a change that could change your life.”

Learn More

For more information about blood pressure management, visit the American Heart Association at http://www.heart.org/hbp. Bayer’s Consumer Health Division, maker of Coricidin® HBP (chlorpheniramine/acetaminophen), is a sponsor of the American Heart Association’s High Blood Pressure website.

Reprinted with permission from the American Heart Association.