Hypertension – Cause and Treatment

Hypertension or high blood pressure does not cause people to have a short temper as some people may think. Actually, hypertension does not have any symptoms. Studies indicate that about one in three American adults have hypertension, but because there are no symptoms, about one in three of these people are unaware of it. If it is left untreated, it can lead to heart disease, kidney damage or stroke. These reasons are why hypertension has been labeled as the silent killer. The only way to tell if you have hypertension is to have your blood pressure checked regularly. Although intensive and costly research has been conducted on hypertension, determining the precise cause of hypertension has been elusive.

Doctors have been unable to determine the specific cause of hypertension in about 90 to 95 percent of all cases. This type of hypertension is labeled as primary or essential hypertension. Although the precise cause of primary hypertension has yet to be identified, researchers have been able to find common attributes in people with primary hypertension.

Studies indicate that primary hypertension only occurs to people with a daily intake of salt that exceeds 5.8 grams. Heredity and race were proven to be factors in 30 percent of the cases that were studied. People with a family history of hypertension were twice as likely to get it. And the number of cases of hypertension was greatest among African Americans. Also most of these test subjects exhibited increased stiffness or resistance of their peripheral arteries. This stiffness has been linked to genetic factors, obesity and lack of exercise, excessive salt intake and old age.

About 5 to 10 percent of the cases of hypertension can be attributed to some specific cause and is called secondary hypertension. Chronic kidney diseases, oral contraceptive pills, adrenal gland tumors, chronic alcohol abuse and coarctation of the aorta are known causes of secondary hypertension. Coarctation of the aorta is the most common cause of secondary hypertension in children.

Doctors have not been able to find a cure for primary hypertension, but they have been able to determine treatments that might lower blood pressure to levels that will prevent the complications of hypertension. Secondary hypertension can be managed by treating the underlying cause. If you are a person with mild or moderate hypertension who does not have any damage to the heart or kidneys, you could consider a change in your lifestyle. These changes include maintaining a healthy body weight, lowering the amount of salt you consume, giving up smoking and reducing your consumption of alcohol. Some doctors recommend aerobic exercise for 20 minutes at least 3 to 4 times every week. An eating plan that has been proven to reduce blood pressure is the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan. This eating plan is from the DASH clinical study, which was paid for by the National Institutes of Health. This diet consists of fruits, vegetables and low fat dairy foods. This diet is low in cholesterol and fat; and high in calcium, potassium, magnesium and protein. Something else you might consider is a relaxation technique such as meditation, yoga, biofeedback and hypnosis.

People with moderate or severe hypertension will probably have to use one of the numerous drugs that have been developed to treat hypertension. These drugs include beta-blockers, diuretics, calcium-channel blockers and angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. People with heart failure, diabetes, or asthma should use beta-blockers with caution. If you have heart failure, kidney disease, or diabetes, then you should use ACE inhibitors. Situations involving more severe hypertension may require a combination of two or more of these drugs. These drugs mustbe taken on a daily basis since they only control and do not cure hypertension.

Basic Awareness About Hypertension

Awareness about high blood pressure is very important for the simple reason that the condition is very prevalent. And correspondingly there is a very high likelihood that you or a loved one may be afflicted by hypertension, or may come to be afflicted by the disorder at some time in the future.

Some facts about hypertension, relating to its prevalence could take us by surprise.

1. In US, nearly one in three people are afflicted by hypertension.

2. And only half of these people have the condition under control.

Alternately, hypertension is very often related to certain health disorders. It is very surprising to note that out of every 10 people who have their first heart attack, 7 are afflicted by hypertension. And with stroke as well, it is a similar scenario. Out of every 10 people who suffer from their first stroke, 8 are afflicted by hypertension.

What is Hypertension?

Hypertension and high blood pressure are two terms that are very often used interchangeably. In slightly technical terms, when an individual suffers from hypertension, the force of the blood against the artery walls could be high when seen in the long term. Or it could be high enough to cause any sort of health related issues.

Two factors which define the blood pressure of an individual are the amount of blood which is pumped by the heart, and the resistance to blood flow which is provided in the arteries. So if someone’s heart pumps more blood and the arteries are narrower, the blood pressure is said to be high.

A very surprising fact about hypertension is that one could suffer from high blood pressure for years and not be aware of it. But the damage to blood vessels and the heart is continuous. And it could be detected as well.

So it is highly recommendable to go for regular health checkups and screenings for high blood pressure.

When is it that I need to be concerned about hypertension?

Preferably, one must make hypertension checks a part of routine appointments with the doctor. As a norm, one must try and make sure that one goes for high blood pressure readings once every two years, starting right from the time one is 18. Similarly if one is above the age of 40, or if one is in the age group of 18-39 with a risk of high blood pressure, one must go for these readings every year.

That way, as soon as one comes to realize that one has been suffering from hypertension, one could work along with one’s doctor towards controlling the same.

What makes one vulnerable towards hypertension?

Some people are more at a risk of suffering from hypertension, and it is interesting to know more about the factors that make one more vulnerable to hypertension.

1. Age

– As one ages, the risk of high blood pressure increases as well. So for men, if they are above 45 years of age, they are at a higher risk of suffering from hypertension. Similarly, if women are over 65 years of age, they are equally at the risk of suffering from hypertension.

2. Family History

– Similarly, if one has a family history of hypertension, one is more likely to suffer from the same.

3. Obesity

– And being overweight also makes one more vulnerable towards suffering from hypertension because if one is overweight, more blood needs to be pumped for supply to blood vessels.

4. Not Being Physically Active

– If one is not physically active, the risk of contracting hypertension increases because the heart is required to pump harder, and this makes the force on arteries higher as well.

5. Tobacco Consumption

– Tobacco consumption too is related with high blood pressure. Not only does tobacco increases the heart rate with immediate effect, but it also increases the risk of damage to the arteries.

6. Excessive Consumption Of Salt

– Consumption of too much salt in one’s diet causes the body to retain water, and this too can increase the blood pressure. In the same regard, it is very important for one to get the right amount of potassium in one’s diet, and that is because potassium balances the sodium in one’s body. When one does not get the right amount of potassium in one’s diet, one tends to accumulate too much sodium in the blood.

7. Right Amount Of Vitamin D In One’s Diet

– One needs to take care that one gets the right amount of Vitamin D in one’s diet. Vitamin D can affect an enzyme produced by the kidneys, and that can have a direct influence on the blood pressure. Mushroom, eggs and dairy products are some good sources of Vitamin D.

8. Stress

– High stress levels too are attributed to a temporary increase in the blood pressure. If one tries to beat the stress by use of tobacco, alcohol or a high diet, this may work towards aggravating the condition.

9. Chronic Conditions

– If one suffers from certain chronic condition, these too might aggravate the risk of high blood pressure. Some of such conditions are kidney disease, diabetes and sleep apnea.

Treating Hypertension – Conventional, Natural, and Mind-Body Medicine in Lowering Blood Pressure

Hypertension is commonly known as high blood pressure, and affects approximate 1 out of every 3 people in the US to varying degrees. There is no one known cause, although increased age, family history, weight, and stress levels are factors. Usually, hypertension has no symptoms, though some people experience headaches, dizziness, flushing, or nose bleeds. Even though there are often no symptoms to hypertension, it can be a precursor to a number of serious health concerns in the long run if left untreated. Luckily, there are a number of relatively simple things you can do to help lower your blood pressure.

First, a bit about what hypertension is. Blood pressure is measured with two numbers. Say you have a blood pressure reading of 135/90. The 135 is your systolic blood pressure, and indicates the highest pressure in your blood vessels which occurs when the heart contracts and pushes blood through your circulation. The 90 is your diastolic pressure, which is the lowest pressure in your blood vessels occurring when the heart is relaxed.

Normal blood pressure is considered 120/80, pre-hypertensive is 120/80 to 140/90, and anything above 140/90 is considered a diagnosis of hypertension. While everyone has fluctuations in their blood pressure from time to time and depending on circumstances, a diagnosis of hypertension assumes that your blood pressure is 140/90 or higher most of the time.

Untreated hypertension leaves you more vulnerable to a number of health issues including heart attack or heart failure, stroke, poor circulation, chronic kidney disease, eye problems, and headaches. For this reason, it is ideal to catch the problem when it is still early on, and begin changing your lifestyle and/or taking natural or prescription medications to bring your blood pressure down.

There are a number of medications used for hypertension.

  • Diuretics: Used for mild hypertension, helps to get rid of excess fluid and sodium in the body.
  • ACE Inhibitors (Angiotension Converting Enzyme Inhibitors): Angiotensin is a hormone that constricts blood vessels. ACE inhibitors decrease the production of angiotensin to lower blood pressure.
  • Angiotensin II receptor blockers: These drugs directly block the binding of angiotensin to their receptors, decreasing blood vessel constriction.
  • Beta blockers: These block certain nervous system and hormonal transmissions to the heart and blood vessels, relaxing the muscles and lowering blood pressure.
  • Calcium channel blockers: Block calcium from entering the heart and blood vessel cells, which causes the muscles to relax.
  • Renin inhibitors: Renin is a hormone released by the kidney which causes blood pressure to increase. Renin inhibitors slow down the production of renin.

Side effects are common with hypertension medications. They vary depending on which drug or drugs you are taking but include headaches, indigestion, impotence, constipation, edema, fatigue, dizziness, headaches, or drowsiness.

Because of the side effects of hypertension medications, many people would prefer to deal with their hypertension naturally. There are a number of natural ways to improve your blood pressure reading, however if your hypertension is severe, it is a good idea to start off with prescription medication as these will give the most immediate results. You can then work towards reducing your blood pressure naturally by changing some lifestyle habits, and eventually work your way off of medication. There are also a number of natural remedies that can help with hypertension.

Natural Lifestyle Changes That Can Reduce Hypertension:

  • Limit sodium intake to 1500mg per day or less
  • Limit your alcohol intake, one or two drinks max per day
  • Limit caffeine intake as this can cause stress to the cardiovascular system
  • If you use nicotine, do what you can to reduce your usage or better yet, quit entirely
  • Maintaining a healthy body weight is beneficial. Losing weight (link to weight loss) if you are overweight, or gaining if you are underweight. In losing or gaining weight it is important to be patient – expecting overnight results tends to lead to discouragement and giving up
  • Regular exercise, around 30 minutes at least 5 times per week helps reduce hypertension
  • In addition to reducing sodium, a healthy diet for blood pressure avoids eating too many foods with saturated fats, hydrogenated oils, or simple carbohydrates like white flour and sugars. Fresh foods with soluble fiber and lean proteins are helpful, as well as foods containing magnesium, calcium and potassium. The DASH diet is a diet specifically formulated to reduce hypertension and/or cholesterol, and is easy to follow with a number tasty recipes
  • Reduce stress and anxiety in your life
  • Drink plenty of water

Natural Medicines to Help Reduce Hypertension:

  • Garlic: Incorporated into the diet or taken as a supplement, garlic has a positive effect on the cardiovascular system, lowering blood pressure as well as cholesterol levels. It has the effect of thinning the blood, so do not take with prescription blood thinners such as Warfarin or Coumadin
  • Fish Oil: Fish oil contains EPA, DHA and Omega-3 fatty acids which have been shown to have a moderate lowering effect on blood pressure, as well as beneficial effects on cholesterol and the cardiovascular system in general. In addition, fish oil helps reduce inflammation and is beneficial to the immune system and nervous systems.
  • CoQ10: Acting as a cofactor in many processes in the body, CoQ10 is involved in energy production. By improving energy production in the heart muscle, CoQ10 can help lower blood pressure with regular usage. It has other benefits as well for the cardiovascular system such as lowering cholesterol.
  • Hawthorn: An herbal medicine which helps to improve heart function and lower blood pressure with no side effects

The Mind-Body Connection in Hypertension

The mind-body connection is also important to consider in hypertension. Studies show that increased stress and anxiety are contributing factors in hypertension, so addressing these factors in your life are important in helping to lower blood pressure.

It’s no coincidence that people who feel under a lot of “pressure” in their lives, tend to have high blood pressure. Increased energy production, heart rate, and stress hormones are all a part of feeling chronic pressure and stress, and can cause physiological changes in your body that increase blood pressure. In examining the areas in your life where you are feeling pressure – perhaps in work, relationships, or personal expectations – you can start to determine which pressures are putting you under an unnecessary amount of stress.

It is not always easy to let go of putting pressure on yourself, as the mind tends to think that increased pressure will lead to improved results. This may be true at times, though in reality often we are capable of doing more and performing better when we are relaxed and under less stress. Regardless, excessive pressure in life can take a toll on your health in the long term, and it is up to you to prioritize and sometimes choose your health over living up to those unreasonable pressures.

Hypertension has been dubbed “the silent killer” and in the general public there is a lot of fear surrounding this condition. But if you suffer from high blood pressure, remember that it is a relatively simple condition to treat over time. Medication, changes to your lifestyle, natural medicines, and addressing sources of pressure and stress can all be used to help lower your blood pressure and improve your health.