Hypertension or also known as high blood pressure occurs when there’s a change in one’s blood pressure.
It means that consistently having above-normal blood pressure can result in hypertension. It usually develops over time, and it can happen due to an unhealthy lifestyle. Hypertension is rarely a noticeable symptom but once untreated, it can cause a lot of problems in some of our organs, such as the heart, eyes, kidneys, and brain.
Blood Pressures are classified between systolic pressure (higher number) and diastolic pressure (lower number). Systolic Pressure is the force with which our hearts pumps blood throughout our body, while diastolic pressure is the resistance in the blood vessels for the blood to flow.
Hypertension may also fall into categories:
- Stage 1 Hypertension. It could either be a systolic pressure ranging from 130 to 139 mm Hg or a diastolic pressure ranging from 80 to 89 mm Hg.
- Stage 2 Hypertension. A more-severe hypertension than Stage 1 Hypertension, stage 2 hypertension is a systolic pressure of 140 mm Hg or higher or a diastolic pressure of 90 mm Hg or higher.
- Hypertensive crisis. Blood pressure measuring higher than 180/120 mm Hg that requires immediate medical care. Usually with symptoms such as chest pain, vision problems, numbness or weakness, breathing difficulty, or any other signs and symptoms of a stroke or heart attack.
One can easily monitor blood pressure at home, but it is always good to visit your doctor for its accuracy. If one is diagnosed with hypertension, doctors recommend tests to confirm its diagnosis and its underlying conditions.
- Ambulatory Monitoring. A 24-hour blood pressure monitoring to confirm if one has high blood pressure. It provides a more accurate measure of blood pressure changes, day and night.
- Lab Tests. A urine test and blood tests that include cholesterol test.
- Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG). A quick and painless measure of one’s heart activity.
- Echocardiogram. Used to check for more signs of heart disease that uses sound waves to produce an image of the heart.
Hypertension can be managed even without clinical treatment by changing lifestyle. Doctors recommend to:
- Healthy diet, limiting salt and alcohol
- Have physical activity (e.g., walking for 5 minutes every day)
- Maintain a healthy weight or lose weight if one is overweight.
- And, not smoking
In severe cases, a change of lifestyle isn’t enough. Hypertension new treatment is dependent on the doctor’s prescription based on the diagnosis.
It is important to ask the doctor about one’s hypertension treatment goal as it varies with age, health conditions, etc.
Treatments for Hypertension
Hypertension clinical treatment includes:
- Diuretics. Known as water pills, an oral medication that helps the kidneys eliminate sodium and water from the body. It is also a worldwide well-known hypertension medication.
Diuretics have different classes, such as thiazide, loop, and potassium-sparing. Which one the patient will be taking will be based on the blood pressure and health conditions. Commonly used Diuretics include chlorthalidone, hydrochlorothiazide (Microzide), and others. Diuretics’ common side effect is increased urination, which helps to reduce potassium levels. If the patient has a low potassium level, doctors may add a potassium-sparing diuretic — such as triamterene (Dyazide, Maxide) or spironolactone (Aldactone) — to the treatment.
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. Aides the blood vessels in relaxing by blocking the formation of a natural chemical that narrows blood vessels. ACE includes lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril), benazepril (Lotensin), captopril, and others.
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs). Aides in relaxing the blood vessels by blocking the action, not the formation, of a natural chemical that narrows blood vessels. Examples of this medicine are candesartan (Atacand), losartan (Cozaar) and others.
- Calcium channel blockers. Aides in relaxing the muscles of your blood vessels and help to slow down the heart rate. Usually, calcium channel blockers work well for older people. Calcium channel blockers include (Norvasc), and diltiazem (Cardizem, Tiazac, others).
When taking calcium channel blockers, the patient is not allowed to eat or drink grapefruit products as it increases blood levels of certain calcium channel blockers, which can be dangerous.
If the above treatment is not effective, the doctor may recommend:
- Alpha blockers. Lowers the effects of natural chemicals that narrow blood vessels by reducing nerve signals to blood vessels. It includes doxazosin (Cardura), prazosin (Minipress) and others.
- Alpha-beta blockers. Slows the heartbeat to reduce the amount of blood that must be pumped through the vessels by blocking nerve signals to blood vessels. Examples are carvedilol (Coreg) and labetalol (Trandate).
- Beta blockers. Reduces the workload on your heart and widens your blood vessels, causing your heart to beat slower and with less force. Such as acebutolol, atenolol (Tenormin), and others. Effective when combined with other hypertension medication.
- Aldosterone antagonists. Blocks the effect of a natural chemical that can lead to salt and fluid buildup, which can contribute to high blood pressure. They are also considered Diuretics; examples are spironolactone and eplerenone (Inspra).
- Renin inhibitors. Increases blood pressure by slowing the production of renin, an enzyme produced by your kidneys that starts a chain of chemical steps. It shouldn’t be taken together with ACE and ARBs.
- Vasodilators. Works directly on the muscle in the artery walls, preventing the muscle from tightening and the arteries from narrowing. These medications include hydralazine and minoxidil.
- Central-acting agents. These are oral medicines that help in preventing the brain from telling your nervous system to increase its heart rate and narrow the blood vessels- including clonidine (Catapres, Kapvay), guanfacine (Intuniv) and methyldopa.
If hypertension persists despite taking medications, that is assigned to resistant hypertension, and the doctor must investigate other possibilities of causes.
Hypertension has caused a lot of cardiac death; it is important to keep the body healthy and have the right lifestyle to avoid it.