Causes and Treatment of Hypertension

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Information on Causes and Treatment of Hypertension

The overwhelming majority of cases of hypertension or high blood pressure turn out to have no easily identifiable and remediable cause; these cases are referred to as primary.  We know that hormones and nerve impulses may contribute to primary hypertension, and much research in these areas points to exciting future breakthroughs.  In addition, most risk factors for hypertension are poor health habits such as overweight, a high-fat and high-salt diet, drinking alcohol and lack of exercise.  About half of all people with mild hypertension can control their condition by adopting positive lifestyle changes.  This is by losing weight (if you are overweight).  As Many studies have now documented the fact that obesity heightens the risk for hypertension, getting rid of excess pounds is the most effective non-drug method of lowering one's high blood pressure.  Studies also indicate that losing as little as two pounds can result in a one to two point drop in your blood pressure.  In a study conducted on people treated only with weight loss (they were not salt restricted), experienced an average reduction of blood pressure of 26 points (mm of mercury) systolic and 20 points diastolic.  In another group of people with even higher blood pressure who were also taking medication, the drop during weight reduction was even more dramatic, averaging 37 points systolic and 23 points diastolic.  A similar group treated with pills but not weight reduction did not show a significant reduction in blood pressure.


The good news is that death rates attributable to hypertension have been considerably reduced by as much as 35% in the last ten years; with today's effective drugs, it is rare for a person to die of heart or kidney failure due to uncontrollable hypertension.  Beyond this, may experts think that the recent decline in the death rate from heart attacks and strokes is largely attributable to the greatly improved treatment for hypertension developed during the past years.


Several studies have reported mild lowering of blood pressure using techniques of relaxation, meditation and biofeedback.  These approaches (particularly those that involve no expensive equipment or investment) may be worthy of trial by themselves in cases of very mild hypertension and in combination with drug therapy for more severe cases.  Doing half and hour or an hour's mild to moderate exercise such as brisk walking in the park or garden and bike riding three times a week can actually help to bring your blood pressure a few notches lower, all the more if you are losing weight.  Your doctor will be able to recommend the appropriate exercise program for you.


Limit alcohol intake as alcohol raises the blood pressure even in a person without hypertension.  It also reduces the heart's pumping ability.  It is suggested that alcohol intake be limited to no more than 12 ounces of beer and five ounces of wine a day and none at all is even better.


Eat a low-fat, high-fruits, and vegetable diet.  A newly released study found that people at risk for hypertension were able to lower their blood pressure by 11.5 mm Hg systolic and 5.5 mm Hg diastolic through diet alone.  Forty percent were able to stop their medication.  The diet may have helped because it promoted weight loss and was higher than the typical diet in the minerals, calcium, potassium and magnesium that are associated with lower blood pressure.


Few experts claim that salt is the sole cause of hypertension.  Rather, they describe salt as an important contributing factor in the people who are genetically susceptible to high blood pressure.  And for such persons, the hidden salt in the processed food of the typical diet is a real hazard.  Although the issue of whether a high-salt diet causes or aggravates the onset of high blood pressure is still under debate, there is no question that once hypertension develops, sodium is automatically off-limits.  However, a moderate reduction of salt in the diet alone will not usually be enough to lower blood pressure back to normal levels once you are diagnosed to have hypertension.  In addition to medication, most doctors will recommend a very low sodium diet for people with hypertension.  Avoid such high-sodium foods as salt-heavy pickles, potato chips, olives, sauerkraut, biscuits and pancakes, soy sauce, ketchups, ham, sausages, bacon, hot dogs, smoked meats and commercially prepared or canned soups and vegetables.  Salt restriction and weight loss may be all that is needed to control very mild elevations of blood pressure.  Salt is everywhere in our daily diet, but it is a learned taste which our children can be trained to live without.


Through these lifestyle changes will help, they may not be enough for some people diagnosed with hypertension.  In which cases, if you cannot bring your blood pressure under control, you may also need to take medication.  Anti-hypertension medication include diuretics, beta-blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers, calcium channel blockers, alpha-blockers and central acting agents.  Persons suffering from diabetes, kidney disease or cardiovascular diseases, more often than not, are treated more aggressively with antihypertensive medications as indicated by their respective conditions.  Most persons with diastolic blood pressure levels over 90 will be encouraged to take one or more drugs to bring it into a lower range.  Understandably, the idea of having to take drugs, often for the remainder of one's life, is not appealing.  Yet it is not an optimistic overstatement to suggest that the majority of persons requiring drug therapy will eventually, often very quickly, find a program of treatment that produces very little interference with normal living.


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