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New Treatment Guidelines for High Blood Pressure

4 steps to take to protect yourself, reduce risk

What you can do: Tell your doctor if you regularly forget to take your pills, if you experienced uncomfortable side effects and stopped taking the pills, or if you didn't get the prescription filled because you couldn't afford it. Otherwise your doctor may prescribe a second drug in the mistaken belief that the first isn't working.

Lifestyle changes may be the only treatment needed for milder hypertension.

"The most useful lifestyle changes you can make are to restrict the amount of sodium in your diet, lose weight if you're overweight and start a regular exercise program."

What you can do: "The most useful lifestyle changes you can make are to restrict the amount of sodium in your diet, lose weight if you're overweight and start a regular exercise program," says Fleg. "I firmly believe that lifestyle factors can prevent conditions such as hypertension, obesity and diabetes as well as be useful in their treatment."

"How high blood pressure is treated depends on the patient and the doctor," says Fleg, noting that the treatment recommendations should be individually tailored. "But," he emphasizes, "high blood pressure is not something to disregard. The important message is that it should be treated and not ignored."

Nissa Simon is a freelance writer who lives in New Haven, Conn.

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