Guidelines for Hypertension Treatment - Presented by Jamie Johnston, MD
How to Treat Hypertension
Most people who have high blood pressure will need lifelong treatment to help ward off or delay serious health problems brought on by the condition.
Treatment for adults is usually aimed at getting to and keeping blood pressure below 130/80 millimeters of mercury (mmHg). (1)
Options to treat high blood pressure may include eating a healthy diet with less salt and taking medication, as well as incorporating additional lifestyle changes.
Lifestyle Changes to Lower and Manage Hypertension
Additional lifestyle changes can also help you lower and manage blood pressure. These include:
Keeping a Healthy WeightMaintaining a healthy weight can help you control high blood pressure and keep other complications at bay.
Moreover, reducing your weight by just 3 to 5 percent can help lower your risk of health problems related to high blood pressure. (4)
While a body mass index (BMI) — which measures your weight in relation to your height and gives an estimate of your total body fat — of less than 25 is the goal for controlling blood pressure, your doctor can help you determine your specific weight goals. (4)
ExerciseRegular exercise can keep your weight under control, as well as help lower your blood pressure.
The AHA recommends an average of 40 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity aerobic activity three or four times a week to lower blood pressure. (7)
Limiting Alcohol ConsumptionAlcohol can raise your blood pressure, even if you don't have hypertension, so everyone should monitor alcoholic intake.
Healthy women of all ages and men older than 65 should stick to drinking up to one drink a day, while men 65 and younger should stay within up to two drinks a day. (4)
Not SmokingWhile smoking is a proven risk factor for heart problems like heart attack and stroke, researchers are still trying to understand its connection to high blood pressure. Both smoking and secondhand exposure to tobacco smoke increases the risk of plaque inside the arteries, a condition known as atherosclerosis, which high blood pressure accelerates.
Smoking also causes a temporary increase in blood pressure. (8)
Ask your doctor for tips to quit smoking, and investigate smoking-cessation medication and devices to help you break your addiction to nicotine.
Managing StressThe relationship between stress and high blood pressure is still being studied, but stress is known to contribute to risk factors for hypertension, such as poor diet and excessive alcohol use.
Additionally, stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol make the heart beat faster and constrict blood vessels in preparation for the fight-or-flight response. This raises blood pressure temporarily, but researchers are still studying if chronic stress may impact blood pressure over time. (9)
Learning how to manage stress, relax, and cope with problems can improve your emotional and physical health.
The following ways may help you better manage your stress:
- Practicing relaxation techniques, such as yoga, deep breathing, and meditation, which not only help you relax, but also temporarily reduce your blood pressure
- Getting enough sleep (aim for seven to nine hours per night)
- Listening to music or focusing on something calm and peaceful (4)
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Sometimes diet and lifestyle changes may not be enough to manage high blood pressure and medication is needed. There are a variety of blood pressure drugs, known as antihypertensives, available by prescription. Some of the most common ones include:
- DiureticsThese help the body get rid of excess salt and water and help control blood pressure.
- Beta-Blockers These reduce heart rate and the heart's workload, which in turn lowers blood pressure.
- ACE Inhibitors Also known as angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, these help the body produce less of the chemical angiotensin, which causes the arteries to narrow. These drugs help the blood vessels relax and open up, which lowers blood pressure.
- Calcium Channel Blockers These prevent calcium from entering the muscles cells of the heart and arteries. This also helps the blood vessels relax and open up, thus lowering blood pressure.
- Alpha Blockers These reduce the arteries’ resistance and relax the muscle tone of the vascular walls.
- Central Agonists These help decrease the blood vessels’ ability to tense up and contract, thereby helping to lower blood pressure. (10)
Some of these drugs may be taken in combination to treat hypertension. Your doctor will work with you to find a treatment plan that is best for you.
For many people, taking more than one medication in low doses can be more effective in treating high blood pressure than taking larger doses of one single drug.
Sometimes your doctor may need to try different combinations of drugs in order to determine which is best for you. It is important to follow recommendations carefully and report any side effects to your healthcare provider.
Video: How To Reduce High Blood Pressure Naturally | How To Prevent High Blood Pressure Naturally
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