Diagnosis and Treatment Options for Hypertension

Hypertension refers to the condition where blood pressure is elevated throughout the body.  As the heart pushes blood out, the pressure should decrease somewhat as it travels away from the heart and into smaller veins throughout the body.  High blood pressure, or hypertension, does not always manifest itself with many symptoms but it can lead to serious health conditions and complications which has earned it the name ‘The Silent Killer’.

Diagnosing Hypertension

The most common way high blood pressure is determined is simply by measuring a patient’s blood pressure on regular wellness check visits with doctors or nurses.  Blood pressure is measured with a cuff which delivers two different numbers given as one number over the other.  These two numbers represent the following information:

  • Systolic Pressure

This is the first number number and it represents the pressure of the blood against the walls of the arteries

  • Diastolic Pressure

This is the second number and it shows how much pressure there is within the arteries in the heart as it rest and then refills between each beat

This result is measured against what is considered to be normal and balanced for blood pressure and can also signal the need to simply keep an eye on blood pressure for patients who begin to have consistently higher readings.  According to the American Heart Association the guidelines for blood pressure readings are as follows:

  • Around 120/80: Normal blood pressure
  • Above 120-80 to 139/89: Pre-hypertension
  • 140/59 to 190/99: Stage 1 Hypertension
  • Over 160/100: Stage 2 Hypertension

Treating Hypertension

Hypertension can be the result of many different things, from weight and general lifestyle to age and family history.  As a result, treatment for hypertension varies depending on each individual case.  Medications are available for patients who need them but there are other ways to safely lower blood pressure without the need for medication.

Weight – Losing weight is often the first step to naturally lowering weight loss.  In addition to simply losing weight, patients should also be aware of their waistline measurement which has been linked to blood pressure.  Men should keep their waistline measurement below 40 inches and women should aim for a measurement of 35 inches or below

Regular Exercise – In addition to exercise encouraging weight loss it can also promote healthier blood flow which can, in turn, lower blood pressure

Nutrition – A diet which is rich in fruits and vegetables along with whole grains, can lower blood pressure

Reducing Sodium and Alcohol – Salt and alcohol have both been shown to greatly increase blood pressure.  Even a modest reduction in these can result in significant lowering of blood pressure

Natural and pharmaceutical methods for lowering blood pressure can be discussed directly with your primary care doctor.  This way, your own health care team can work with you to target aspects of your lifestyle which may be contributing to higher blood pressure.  Some factors, however, cannot be treated simply by lifestyle changes.  For example, age, race and family history all play a role in the chances of someone developing hypertension.  For these patients a combination of healthy lifestyle changes and medication can work to bring blood pressure reading down to the normal range.

Here are Some Facts about Hypertension taken from http://www.medicinenet.com.

  • High blood pressure (hypertension) is designated as either essential (primary) hypertension or secondary hypertension and is defined as a consistently elevated blood pressure exceeding 140/90 mm Hg.
  • High blood pressure is called “the silent killer” because it often causes no symptoms for many years, even decades, until it finally damages certain critical organs.
  • Poorly controlled high blood pressure ultimately can cause damage to blood vessels in the eye, thickening of the heart muscle and heart attacks, hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis), kidney failure, and strokes.
  • Most antihypertensive medications can be used alone or in combination. Some are used only in combination. Some are preferred over others in certain specific medical situations. And some are not to be used (contraindicated) in other situations.
  • Several classes of antihypertensive medications are available, including ACE inhibitors, ARB drugs, beta-blockers, diuretics, calcium channel blockers, alpha-blockers, and peripheral vasodilators.
  • The goal of therapy for hypertension is to bring the blood pressure down below 140/85 in the general population and to even lower levels in diabetics, African Americans, and people with certain chronic kidney diseases.
  • High blood pressure (hypertension) in pregnancy can lead to preeclampsia or eclampsia (toxemia of pregnancy). Pregnant women should be monitored closely by their obstetrician for complications of high blood pressure.
  • Lifestyle adjustments in diet and exercise and compliance with medication regimes are important factors in determining the outcome for people with hypertension.
  • High salt intake, obesity, lack of regular exercise, excessive alcohol or coffee intake, and smoking may all adversely affect the outlook for the health of an individual with high blood pressure.
Medical Author: Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD.