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Importance of Managing Blood Pressure With Lupus

Heart complications are more common in people with lupus than in the general population. These complications include heart disease, heart attack, cerebrovascular disease, and stroke. They are leading causes of death in people who have lupus.1

The activity of the disease itself, coupled with increased risk from corticosteroids often used in treatment, can suppress the immune system and increase the risk for heart problems.1

High blood pressure in people with lupus

High blood pressure (hypertension) is also common in people living with lupus. In fact, 50 percent of people with lupus have blood pressure higher than 140/90 mmHg. Nearly 75 percent of people with lupus have blood pressure higher than what is considered normal in healthy patients, which is 120/80 mmHg.2,3

High blood pressure in people with lupus is commonly caused by obesity, kidney disease, and long-term steroid use. Some other treatments prescribed for lupus, such as cyclosporine, may also contribute to high blood pressure.2

New research leads to new guidelines

The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association have adjusted the definition of high blood pressure for people with lupus. They increased the minimum level of normal from 120/80 mmHg to 130/80 mmHg.3

Why the change? In a recent study, researchers concluded that people with blood pressure greater than 130/80 mmHg had a 2.5 times greater risk of cardiac events than people with blood pressure at or below 130/80 mmHg. These cardiac events included coronary artery disease, cerebrovascular event (blockage of blood supply to the brain), or blood circulation disorder.3

How to reduce the risk of high blood pressure

There are many lifestyle factors that can contribute to high blood pressure for people living with lupus. But these risks can be reduced by changing certain habits.1

Diet

A healthy diet is one way to reduce the risk of heart complications associated with high blood pressure. A healthy diet includes:1

  • 3 to 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily
  • Whole grain, high-fiber foods
  • 2 servings of fish per week
  • Reducing salt intake
  • Limiting alcohol
  • A diet low in saturated and trans fat and cholesterol

Exercise

Regular physical activity can reduce stress and joint pain that often accompanies lupus. Consider doing:1

  • Low-impact exercises such as Pilates or tai chi
  • Physical therapy to soothe joints and strengthen muscles

Healthy body weight

Extra weight increases the volume and muscle wall stress on the heart. Obesity is also often linked with high blood pressure. Both eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly can help you reach and maintain a healthy body weight.1

Smoking

Smoking can cause stiffening of the arteries in people with lupus, as well as in healthy individuals. All people living with lupus should consider quitting smoking.1

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