Wellness and Prevention Part II Chapter 2
Control Blood Pressure
What Is Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is the force of the circulating blood against the inner walls of your blood vessels. Although blood surges through your blood vessels, there is always pressure exerted on their walls. The amount of pressure is determined by how much blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries.
There are three types of hypertension:
- Preliminary or essential, hypertension, accounts for 90-95% of all cases and doesn't have a specific, treatable cause. However, an unhealthy lifestyle can play a role in developing hypertension in people who have a predisposition for it.
- Secondary hypertension is caused by an underlying condition, such as a kidney disorder or a congenital abnormality. The high blood pressure generally returns to normal when the problem is corrected.
- Pregnancy-related hypertension may occur in women who have a predisposition to hypertension when they become pregnant.
Complications of Hypertension
The complications of hypertension can be very serious, and even fatal. They include:
- Enlarged Heart
- Vision Damage
- Kidney Disease
- Trouble with Memory or Understanding
Some risk factors for hypertension are not within your control:
- Age. The risk of hypertension increases as you age.
- Race. Hypertension is more common among African Americans.
- Genetics. High blood pressure tends to run in families.
Other risk factors are within your control:
- Smoking or using tobacco in any form
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Lack of exercise
- High levels of fat and cholesterol in your blood
- Too much salt (sodium) in your diet
- Too little potassium in your diet
- Too little vitamin D in your diet
- Oral contraceptives
- Certain chronic conditions, like diabetes, kidney disease, and sleep apnea
Doctors will usually advise lifestyle changes before prescribing medication, except for people who have blood pressure above 160/100 mm Hg, or those who have blood pressure above 120/80 mm Hg and also have diabetes, a kidney disorder, evidence of damage to a vital organ, or other risk factors. In these cases doctors will generally advise both medication and lifestyle changes.
- Lose weight if overweight. The loss of as few as 10 pounds can lower blood pressure.
- Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products, and low in saturated fat and total fat content.
- Quit if you smoke.
- Limit alcohol intake to one drink per day for women, two for men.
- Reduce sodium intake to less than 2.5 g per day.
- Do moderate aerobic exercise regularly.
- Practice relaxation and find ways to relieve stress.
If lifestyle changes are not enough to reduce hypertension, one or more of the following medications may be prescribed:
- Thiazide diuretics
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs)
- Calcium channel blockers
If the blood-pressure goal isn't reached using combinations of the above drugs, the doctor may prescribe:
- Alpha blockers or alpha-beta blockers
- Central-acting agents
If you have hypertension, it's very important to stay aware of it. High blood pressure is extraordinarily dangerous, not only because of the permanent damage it can do to many parts of your body, but also simply because it lacks symptoms. Your doctor may recommend you monitor your blood pressure with a home blood-pressure monitoring kit to encourage you to stay on treatment. Don't let hypertension be a "silent killer."
Related Health Centers:
The material on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Consult a licensed medical professional for the diagnosis and treatment of all medical conditions and before starting a new diet or exercise program. If you have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.