Hypertension: Lowering The Pressure

High blood Pressure is classified as a systolic pressure above 130 and a diastolic pressure above 80 and is a dangerous chronic illness that can lead to heart attacks, heart failure, strokes and kidney disease.

By lowering the pressure with which blood is pumped through our arteries, we can protect our blood vessels, kidneys, heart and brain from damage. By preventing high blood pressure and treating it early once diagnosed, we can also prevent complications such as vision problems, poor memory, dementia and erectile dysfunction.

Even though we can’t do anything about our age, race and family history, causes of hypertension that is treatable or under our control include smoking, inactivity, being overweight, too much salt, too much alcohol, stress, thyroid disorders and sleep apnoea.

The first line of treatment is lifestyle change- losing weight if needed, quitting smoking, eating healthier with more fruit and vegetables and less saturated fats, reducing salt, getting more exercise and sitting less, managing stress and limiting alcohol.

There are several classes of medications to treat hypertension working on different areas in the body- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs), Diuretics, Beta-blockers, Calcium channel blockers and Alpha-blockers. Combination therapy is recommended where two or more types of drugs are needed to control blood pressure. More than 70% of adults will eventually need at least two antihypertensive treatments. Approximately 45% of patients with hypertension and 84% of those with uncontrolled hypertension are not adherent to their treatment. Multiple studies showed that combination pills containing two or three agents increase treatment adherence and also decreases costs.

Follow-up visits are extremely important after a diagnosis of hypertension as well as regular check-ups until the blood-pressure goal is reached. Most medical aids also pay out of the chronic benefit for at least two follow-up visits and blood tests to check kidney function, cholesterol and other co-morbidities, ECG to look at the heart, optometrist visits to make sure eyes are healthy and dietician consultations to help with weight loss.

Hypertension is called the “silent killer” because most of the time there are no symptoms to alert a person that they might suffer from it. Make use of free screenings and other check-ups to catch it sooner rather than later.