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The Basics of Hypertension

An overview of high blood pressure should get you on the same page as your doctor. Managing this condition is a team approach and needs to happen slowly.

Pharmacologic Treatment

If you treat your hypertension, you will manage it through lifestyle means or by taking prescription medications. You might also try herbal treatments, of which there are a few good options out there—more on that in another article.

There are reversible causes that are addressed before assuming the diagnosis is essential hypertension, aka idiopathic hypertension.

Treatments for hypertension decrease the pressure exerted on the heart and the vascular system. Some medications work by removing the amount of water in the vascular system (diuretics); others decrease the tightness of the vessels (vascular dilators). Some medications also reduce the output from the heart (beta-blockers).

The downside to medications is that they have side effects and need to be monitored. There is also no way to know which medication will work immediately for you.

The other downside to managing hypertension with pharmacology alone is that we don’t focus on the underlying causes which led to hypertension in the first place. For some, it’s an aging heart. For others, it’s genetic, yet it’s an issue with vascular resistance.

Lifestyle Treatment

Lifestyle management of hypertension would include focused activity for the individual. It’ll need to be cardiovascular training; for others, it’s resistance training.

Dietary treatments, such as salt and alcohol intake, can also make a difference, but not for everyone. When going down the diet, you must be okay with a trial and error factor. 

I prefer lifestyle treatment options because it puts the individual at the helm. One learns a lot about their body when experimenting with their lifestyle to see how their health is affected. 

I will add meditation and breathing and general stress and sleep management. These can be significant factors for some while minimally effective for others. 

Diseases Associated with Hypertension

We forget that continued high blood pressure can lead to various diseases, from heart failure to heart attacks and strokes. It can cause erectile dysfunction and kidney disease. And it can hasten dementia or other cognitive issues. 

It is also among the leading accuses of eye problems and circulation issues such as peripheral vascular disease. 

I mention all of these because treating a single condition such as hypertension can improve your health immensely. You get a significant return on effort investment. 

Diagnosing Hypertension

The easiest way to diagnose hypertension is to slap a cuff on your arm. The problem is that this will miss several hypertensive individuals and overdiagnose some.

A 24-hour blood pressure monitor is probably the best thing to invest in. This can be done by wearing a blood pressure cuff that auto-inflates every couple of hours or by having your doctor order the proper 24-hour blood pressure monitoring device.

A person with a few elevated readings does not mean they have a hypertensive disease. And just because you happen to see regular readings when you check, it doesn’t mean your blood pressure doesn’t get unbelievably high during specific episodes in your life, such as when you first wake up or after or during stressful events.

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