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Hypertension: The Basics

 

Hypertension is another way of saying "high blood pressure." Hypertension is one of the leading causes of congestive heart failure, kidney failure, heart attacks and strokes. 

Recent studies have shown that even moderate hypertension increases the chances of suffering from dementia in old age. Hypertension is often referred to as the “silent killer” as most people with high blood pressure don’t even know they suffer from it. 

The heart is an amazing organ with great responsibilities and therefore must be cared for. In order for our blood to flow from the heart and lungs it must be under pressure. When you feel your heart beating it is doing just that. With each contraction it is increasing the pressure in the blood vessels and each time it relaxes between beats, your blood pressure decreases. There are two important numbers involved in understanding blood pressure: systolic and diastolic. Blood pressure is commonly given in the format 120/80. The top or first number is the systolic blood pressure and the lower or second number is the diastolic. 

Hypertension is designated as either primary or secondary. In primary hypertension there is no specific cause while secondary hypertension is caused by an abnormality in the aortic artery, kidney or adrenal gland. Primary hypertension can be hereditary and in America it is most common in the African American community. There are many suspected causes for hypertension such as obesity, insufficient exercise, high salt intake or excessive caffeine or alcohol consumption. 

The effects of uncontrolled hypertension are serious and can be life threatening. Some major effects include hardening of the arteries, eye damage, strokes or hardening of the heart muscle itself. It is very important to be screened often by your healthcare provider as there are many medications, lifestyle changes and herbal alternatives available to prevent further damage. 

The therapeutic goal of hypertension therapy is to lower blood pressure for the general population to 140/85 or lower, but definitely even lower for blacks, diabetics and people with chronic kidney disease. For people with borderline hypertension, diet and exercise may be enough to reduce their blood pressure. In more severe cases, drug therapy is often prescribed. There are several classes of drugs available on the market today, including beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, peripheral vasodialators and even diuretics. One important tool in fighting hypertension is weight control. Carrying extra pounds puts more strain on the heart. 

As people age, often their blood pressure increases, not due to aging but due to other factors mentioned before such as insufficient physical activity. For hypertension, as with most health issues, medication alone is seldom the best solution. Living a healthy, active lifestyle is the best medicine and can produce fantastic results if used in conjunction with herbal supplements or other alternative treatments. Put together a plan with your doctor or health care provider and put it into action. The dangers of hypertension are too great to ignore and even some small changes before it becomes a problem could circumvent the need for medication. 


Note: Some statements in this article may not be approved by the FDA. This article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as professional medical advice.

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Greg Cryns
The Compleat Mother Magazine
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