Role of the family and friends in treating arterial hypertension

Nearly 60% of arterial hypertension patients admit that avoiding stress is one of the doctor’s orders they find most difficult to adhere to; just under 50% patients have body mass issues; 37% cannot handle a diet. Such are the results of the ‘Zdrowa ONA’ programme study carried out on commission by Gedeon Richter[1]. Observing recommendations […]

Nearly 60% of arterial hypertension patients admit that avoiding stress is one of the doctor’s orders they find most difficult to adhere to; just under 50% patients have body mass issues; 37% cannot handle a diet. Such are the results of the ‘Zdrowa ONA’ programme study carried out on commission by Gedeon Richter[1]. Observing recommendations concerning lifestyle changes […]

Nearly 60% of arterial hypertension patients admit that avoiding stress is one of the doctor’s orders they find most difficult to adhere to; just under 50% patients have body mass issues; 37% cannot handle a diet. Such are the results of the Zdrowa ONA programme study carried out on commission by Gedeon Richter[1]. Observing recommendations concerning lifestyle changes involves a number of factors, the patient’s family and friends recognised as vital. In what situations do persons with arterial hypertension need our help the most? What forms of help are recommendable? Monika Stepnowska, psychologist and Zdrowa ONA programme expert, offers advice.

In case of arterial hypertension, a changed lifestyle is an indispensable component of therapy. Changing habits formed over many years is a true challenge, much more difficult under circumstances of numerous “temptations” and a shortage of understanding or support from the nearest and dearest. Imagine having to give up a favourite dish, while everyone else is enjoying it in your presence. This requires amazing effort and self-discipline. Not being exposed to such trials would make life much easier – which is exactly why the support of our family and friends is so crucial, not to mention potential changes affecting the entire family. These may involve simple and little things introduced step by step, not only to help the patient observe certain rules, but also to improve the health and wellbeing of all his or her household members, remarks Monika Stepnowska (psychologist).

First and foremost: let’s talk

The awareness that family and friends are there and can be asked for help with managing treatment-related issues is vital to every arterial hypertension patient.

We frequently believe that our nearest and dearest should be aware of our every need and expectation, especially if we are ill. Yet we are all different, and experience identical situations in different ways. Conversations are about the mutual understanding of needs, expectations, and feelings. The most important thing is to listen and discuss problems and difficulties openly,” says Monika Stepnowska.

Conversation pointers:

  • Find the best time and place for the conversation to make your interlocutor feel comfortable.
  • Express your feelings by using phrases such as “I”, as in “I am concerned because…”
  • Assure the person you are talking to of your readiness to offer assistance.
  • Ask about the form of help your family member or friend would require.
  • Ask precise questions.
  • Try not to promise that everything can be handled swiftly.
  • If you need time to think about an issue, ask for it.
  • Remember that arterial hypertension is a treatable disease.
  • Do not overwhelm the patient with overprotectiveness and control.

When to offer support

  • When diet recommendations have to be observed. Parties, meeting friends, family dinners – these are situations when arterial hypertension patients are particularly prone to breaking the diet regimen. Aware of it, do not prepare or order dishes the patient should avoid. Also when sharing space with the patient daily, it is worthwhile to work on a healthy diet together, especially during the first weeks after the diagnosis, when lifestyle changes are the hardest for hypertension patients. It is much easier to overcome illness-related difficulties together.
  • When physical exercise is required. If an arterial hypertension patient was not used to daily exercise, begin gently by offering to take walks together. Adequate physical exercise will do him/her (and you!) a lot of good. You can also design your own exercise programme.
  • When fighting the smoking habit. Support in meeting recommendations will be required if the hypertension patient is an addicted smoker. How can you help? Firstly, if you are a smoker yourself, do not use tobacco in front of the patient and do not encourage conversation when smoking. Quitting together would be the perfect solution.
  • When managing stress. Help the arterial hypertension patient recognise situations conducive to stress. To manage stress, you have to know the reasons. Learn more about techniques of managing difficult issues. Design your own stress reducing methods (walking, breathing exercises, relaxation). Remember: you can always ask a psychologist for help and consultation.

[1] Nationwide study forming part of the Zdrowa ONA programme initiated by Gedeon Richter, carried out by SW Research between 26 June and 30 June 2013 with the computer-assisted web interviewing (CAWI) method applied. The study involved 300 respondents aged 45 or older.

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