Understanding and Controlling Your High Blood Pressure

via The Medical City |

Why is blood pressure important?

Blood cannot circulate through you body without pressure. Blood pressure is the pressure of blood within the arteries, produced primarily by the contraction of the heart. Your vital organs cannot get oxygen and nutrients it needs without it. Therefore, it is important to know more about blood pressure and how to maintain it in proper range.

When the heart beats, it delivers blood into your arteries and generates pressure in them. This pressure causes blood to flow to all parts of the body.

If an individual is healthy, the arteries are elastic. They stretch when the heart pumps blood through them. How much they stretch depends on how much force the blood exerts.

A normal heart beats 60-80 times a minute. Blood pressure rises on contractions and falls on the relaxation between beats. Blood pressure may vary and change minute to minute, with changes in position, activity or sleeping.

How is blood pressure recorded?

There are two numbers recorded when taking blood pressure. Here’s a sample reading: 110/70 mmHg (millimeters of mercury). The numerator (top) or larger number measures the pressure in arteries when the heart beats, termed as systolic pressure. The denominator (bottom) or smaller number measures the pressure while your heart rests between beats, termed as diastolic pressure.

What causes high blood pressure?

High blood pressure or hypertension is not nervous tension. People who have elevated blood pressure do not have to be tense, compulsive or nervous. You may not have high blood pressure and not be aware of it. Hypertension usually has no symptoms; hence, it is also referred to as the “silent killer”.

About 90-95% of hypertension cases have no known cause, but some factors increase the likelihood of developing this disease. These are termed as risk factors.

Risk factors you can control

• Obesity – people with body mass index (BMI) of 30.0 or higher
• Having a high salt diet
• Alcohol- heavy and regular intake
• Lack of exercise – inactive lifestyle causes one to be overweight
• Stress

Risk factors you cannot control

• Race – African Americans are more prone than Caucasians to develop hypertension
• Heredity – tendency to develop hypertension runs in family
• Age – the older you get, the higher the chance of having hypertension; occurs more commonly over age 35; men seem to develop it between ages 35-50; women are more often likely to develop it after menopause.

Can you tell when blood pressure is high?

No. Hypertension usually has no symptoms. Many people in fact, have it for years without being aware of it. That is why it becomes dangerous and is referred to as the “silent killer”. The only way to know if you are hypertensive is to have your blood pressure taken. Your physician or other medical personnel can check it for you.

Can high blood pressure damage your body?

Yes, high blood pressure can cause damage in many ways. Primarily it adds to the workload of your heart and arteries. Because your heart must work harder than normal for a long time, it tends to become larger. A slightly enlarged heart may still work efficiently but if it is too large already, it may have a difficult time meeting your body’s demands.

As you age, your arteries become less elastic and stiff. This occurs in all people regardless of blood pressure. However, hypertension will speed up the process.

Hypertension increases your risk of stroke. It can cause damage to the kidneys and eyes. People with uncontrolled high blood pressure compared to those with controlled blood pressure are:

• Three times more likely to develop coronary artery disease
• Six times more likely to develop congestive heart failure
• Seven times more likely to have a stroke

If you are hypertensive, follow your doctor’s advice. Most high blood pressure cases cannot be cured, but they can be controlled, and their harmful effects can be prevented and reduced if recognized and treated early and kept under control.

How will I know if I have hypertension?

Your physician can check if you have hypertension by measuring your blood pressure with a sphygmomanometer. Most people with hypertension don’t have symptoms, so a lot of them don’t know they have it. You should have your blood pressure checked at least once a year.

What should I do if I have hypertension?

• If you are diagnosed with hypertension, your blood pressure should be lowered to less than 140/90, or to less than 130/90 if you are diabetic or have kidney disease
• Modify your diet; eat foods that are low in salt and fat
• If you are overweight, try to lose weight
• Limit alcohol intake to no more than two drinks per day
• Increase your physical activity
• Stop smoking
• Take the high blood pressure medicine your doctor gave you and follow his/her directions carefully
• Have your blood pressure monitored regularly

How do I modify my diet to control hypertension?

• Eat foods that are low in fat, salt and calories like low fat milk, fresh vegetables and fruit, and plain rice and pasta
• Use flavorings, spices, and herbs instead of salt
• Avoid butter and margarine, fatty meats, regular salad dressings, whole milk, dairy products, salty snacks, and fried foods
• Consult your doctor for more detailed dietary advice to suit your condition

What activities can I engage in?

• Physical activity should be part of your daily schedule. It helps lower blood pressure and can help you to lose weight or keep your ideal weight
•Consult your doctor before increasing your physical activities
• A minimum of 20-30 minutes activity on most days of the week is advised. This may include walking, jogging, biking, swimming, or ballroom dancing

What should I know about hypertension medications?

To help reduce blood pressure, some patients require medications. There are many medicines used to treat hypertension. Some work by relaxing the arteries and preventing constriction, some remove fluid and salt from the body, some reduce the heart rate to control blood pressure. Patients react to medications differently. A trial period at times may be needed before the doctor finds a suitable medication for a particular patient. If your doctor prescribes medicine for hypertension, be sure to follow the exact directions.

Consider these important points about prescribed anti-hypertensive medication:

• Name of the drug
• What it is supposed to do
• How to take it
• How much to take
• How long you should be taking it
• How to store the drug
• What specific time it should be taken
• The possible side effects that might be experienced
• What to do in case a dose is missed
• Whether it is safe for pregnant patients
• What other medications, food, drinks, or activities should be avoided when taking the drug

Consult your doctor about the possible side effects you may experience when you take the medicine. It is important to remember that you should NOT stop taking the medicine on your own.

The following are examples of drugs used to treat hypertension:

Diuretics are often the first-line treatment. These drugs help control blood pressure by taking out excess salt and water from the body. Some common diuretics are furosemide, indapamide, hydrochlorthiazide, etc

Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors expand blood vessels and decrease resistance, allowing blood to flow easily and making the heart work more efficiently. They are used to treat heart failure symptoms and control blood pressure. Some common ace-inhibitors are captopril, enalapil, fosinopril, lisinopril, quinapril, etc

Angiotension-2 receptor antagonists produce similar effects as ace-inhibitors. They may be better tolerated because they produce less coughing. Examples are candesartan, valsartan, olmesartan, losartan, irbesartan, etc

Beta-blockers decrease the heart rate and cardiac output, both of which will lower blood pressure. Some common bête blockers include metropolol, atenolol, bisoprolol, carvedilol, etc

Calcium channel blockers interrupt the movement of the calcium into the heart and blood vessel cells. Examples are felodipine, amlodipine, diltiazem, verapamil, etc

Combination therapies include beta-blocker and diuretic, or ace-inhibitor and diuretic

Source: American Heart Association

Note: This information is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advise, diagnosis or treatment. If you or someone you know have any of the symptoms mentioned above, it is advisable to seek professional help.

For any inquiries please contact any of our accredited physician at The Medical City’s Center for Patient Partnership at tel. no. (632) 988-1000 / (632) 988-7000 ext. 6444.

Cardiac and Peripheral Vascular Center
Tel. no.: (632) 988-1000 / (632) 988-7000 ext. 6299/6243

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