Why is hypertension “bad”?
Hypertension is increased pressure inside your arteries. This increased pressure in your arteries and veins causes your heart to work harder, even at rest, to supply blood through the rest of the body. This increased stress on the heart causes increased risk for heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and sudden death. Time and time again, lifestyle modifications have been proven to be the most powerful treatments before medication. Think of these changes as a “lifestyle prescription” and make every effort to comply with them.
- Decrease salt
- Salt (sodium) increases blood pressure because it holds excess fluid in the body.
- Increased pressure makes the heart work even harder.
- This increases risk for heart attack, stroke and heart failure.
- Avoid the “Salty Six” — breads and rolls, cold cuts and cured meats, pizza, poultry, soup and sandwiches – are the leading sources of overall sodium in the American diet.
- Avoid red meats and fast food
- High fat diet contributes to higher risk of plaque in your blood vessels. This can cause higher blood pressure.
- Eat more vegetables
- Vegetables are rich in vitamins and anti-oxidants that are heart-healthy!
- Remember to cook them with low sodium!
- Eat more fruits
- Skip the juice and soda. If you need some sugar, try freezing berries and eating them as snacks instead of other artificial sugars.
- Avoid alcohol consumption
- Avoid caffeine
- The point is to get your heart working efficiently and to maintain its optimum level of performance.
- For every person, that optimum level depends on the person’s overall state of health. Ask your doctor today what kind of exercise program you can follow. (Remember to include cardio time in your daily routine! By doing cardio (jogging, running, swimming, spinning, etc.), you are having your heart practice performing at an optimal level.)
- Decreasing fat and BMI has been proven to lower blood pressure.
- Good thing is that this often comes naturally with an increase in exercise and healthy diet modifications.
Consistency with all these lifestyle “prescriptions” are key in maintaining low blood pressure and heart health!
If blood pressure is still not controlled after modifying all of the above, the following medications are powerful drugs that have been FDA approved for hypertension. Please note that all medications carry the risk of side effects and/or having no effect on blood pressure.
Medications that treat hypertension:
If your blood pressure is 140/90 or higher consistently after thorough evaluation, your doctor will likely prescribe medication in addition to lifestyle modifications. Follow your healthcare professional’s recommendations carefully, even if it means taking medication every day for the rest of your life. Remind yourself that by managing your blood pressure, you are lowering your risk of heart attack, heart failure, stroke, peripheral artery disease and kidney disease.
- Thiazide diuretics– (water pills): Thiazide diuretics act on the kidney to excrete sodium. Remember, where sodium goes, water goes. These pills reduce water in the body thus, reduce blood volume and pressure.
- ACE Inhibitors– (lisinopril, “prils”): These drugs block an enzyme that converts a series of compounds from causing an increase in water volume and constriction of the blood vessels. These medications are particularly useful in diabetics and have been shown to prevent diabetic damage to kidneys.
- ARB’s (losartan, “sartans”): These drugs block a compound called angiotensin from binding to their receptors and causing vasoconstriction (constriction of the arteries).
- Calcium Channel blockers: These drugs have two subclasses and numerous effects. Please discuss these medications with your physician for more information.
- Beta blockers (atenolol, “olol’s”): These drugs act in numerous ways which your physician can discuss. There are several varieties that work on different beta and also alpha receptors.
- Loop Diuretics- (furosemide, Lasix): Loop diuretics are powerful diuretics that block sodium, potassium, and chloride from entering the body in excess. Water is attracted to these molecules so blocking them also blocks water from entering the body and reduces blood volume and pressure.
- Potassium sparing diuretics (spironolactone, triamterene): These diuretics block the aldosterone receptor and hold on to potassium. This drug is used in special cases such as hyperaldostronism and often sleep apnea.
- Alpha 2 agonists (clonidine): Inhibits sympathetic outflow which causes vasodilation which widens the lumen of the artery thus decreasing pressure