Bringing Down High Blood Pressure
What is it?
Just about everybody has heard about high blood pressure, or
hypertension. It is generally diagnosed in adults when the systolic
blood pressure (the upper number) is greater than 140 and the
diastolic blood pressure (the lower number) is above 90.
What causes it?
There are several factors that are known to contribute to
hypertension, including a family history of hypertension, high salt
intake, obesity, stress, smoking, and drinking.
Treatment Via Lifestyle Changes
The treatment of hypertension usually focuses on minimizing
factors that are known to trigger hypertension. Lowering the
amounts of fat, cholesterol, and salt will aid in the treatment of
hypertension and will also help in the maintenance of a healthy
weight (remember, obesity is another factor in hypertension).
Exercising regularly is also beneficial, both as a direct treatment
for hypertension, and also to aid in maintaining a healthy body
weight. Reducing general life stress is also a good strategy for
Drinking alcohol and smoking are both big no-nos. Even small
amounts of alcohol may raise blood pressure in some people. As
for smoking, within minutes of inhaling, your blood pressure
increases. Smoking also damages blood vessel walls, contributes
to hardening of the arteries, speeds up your pulse, and increases
how hard your heart has to work. If you want to be able to stay off of
medication, you should first eliminate as many of the contributing
factors as possible. Drinking and smoking should be the first to go.
This should be followed by the adoption of a healthy diet and
regular exercise program, combined with a stress reduction
program (which can include several methods such as
biofeedback, yoga, medication, and relaxation therapy).
Treatment Via Medication
If your diastolic number (the lower number) is above 95, it is likely
that your doctor will prescribe medication. There are many types of
anti-hypertensive drugs including diuretics, converting enzyme
inhibitors, calcium-channel blockers, sympatholytics, and
vasodilators. Diuretics lower the body's fluid volume through
increasing urination. Angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors
(ACE inhibitors) reduce the production of a hormone that
increases blood pressure. Calcium-channel blockers cause the
walls of the blood vessels to relax, thereby lowering blood
pressure. Sympatholytics act on parts of the nervous system to
relax the heart and blood vessels. This class of drugs is not usually
prescribed during pregnancy. Vasodilators also cause the blood
vessels to relax, are only used in severe cases of hypertension,
and are rarely prescribed for women because one kind of
vasodilator can induce increased hair growth.