How to Treat Hypertension
Hypertension: Treatment Overview
High blood pressure (also called hypertension) should be under 120/80 to be considered normal. Higher levels may lead to other problems, such as stroke or kidney disease. High blood pressure is treated with lifestyle changes and medications.
Why is high blood pressure (hypertension) dangerous?
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is dangerous because it can lead to strokes, heart attacks, heart failure, or kidney disease. The goal of hypertension treatment is to lower harmful high pressures and protect important organs, such as the brain, heart, and kidneys.
In studies, treatment for hypertension has been associated with reductions in stroke (reduced an average of 35 percent to 40 percent), heart attack (20 percent to 25 percent), and heart failure (more than 50 percent).
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).
Severe causes of high blood pressure
Hypertension consists of two types:
1. Primary hypertension or essential hypertension develops overtime with unidentifiable causes. This type of high blood pressure is typical of most people
2. Secondary hypertension which occurs quickly and more severe than former. If you ignore above mentioned symptoms, you may encounter severe problems which include the followings
– Damaged arteries
– Damaged heart including heart failure, arrhythmias, sudden cardiac death, heart attack
– Damaged brain
How is high blood pressure (hypertension) treated?
A critical step in preventing and treating hypertension is a healthy lifestyle. You can lower your blood pressure with these lifestyle changes:
- Losing weight if you are overweight or obese
- Quitting smoking
- Eating a healthy diet, including the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan (more fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products, less saturated and total fat)
- Reducing the amount of salt in your diet to 2,400 milligrams (about 6 grams or 1 teaspoon) a day or less
- Getting regular aerobic exercise (such as brisk walking at least 30 minutes a day, several days a week)
- Limiting alcohol to two drinks a day for men, one drink a day for women
In addition to lowering blood pressure on their own, these measures enhance the effectiveness of antihypertensive medicines.
There are several classes of drugs used to treat hypertension, including:
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
- Angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs)
- Beta blockers
- Calcium channel blockers
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:
- Diuretics These 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.
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
The Joint National Committee recommends thiazide-type diuretics as the first line of therapy for most people who have hypertension. If the patient has problems with one drug or if it isn’t effective, he or she can be switched to another drug.
A doctor might start a medicine other than a diuretic as the first line of therapy if a patient has certain medical problems. For example, ACE inhibitors are often a good choice for a patient with diabetes.
If a patient’s blood pressure is more than 20/10 mmHg higher than it should be, the doctor might consider starting the patient on two drugs.
Treatment for high blood pressure includes ongoing care, as well as individual treatments tailored for specific situations and younger age groups, including children and teens.
Ongoing medical care
To make the most of your treatment, it’s vital to get regular medical checkups and blood pressure tests. Regular checkups allow your doctor to monitor how well your treatment is going and make any necessary adjustments to your treatment plan.
If your blood pressure starts inching back up, your doctor can respond promptly. Doctor’s visits also give you an opportunity to ask questions and bring up any concerns.
Treatment for specific situations
Additional treatment options may be needed in certain situations like resistant hypertension or secondary hypertension.
Resistant hypertension refers to blood pressure that remains high after trying at least three different types of blood pressure medication. Someone whose high blood pressure is controlled by taking four different kinds of medication is considered to have resistant hypertension.
Even such hard-to-treat cases can often be managed successfully in time. Your doctor might prescribe a different medication, dose, drug combination, or more aggressive lifestyle changes. Getting a referral to a heart or kidney specialist may also be useful in treating resistant hypertension.
Secondary hypertension is high blood pressure that’s directly caused by another health problem or drug side effect. Blood pressure often drops substantially or even goes back to normal once doctors diagnose and treat the root cause.
Treatment options for children and teens
Children may take the same blood pressure medications as adults when necessary. For children with secondary hypertension, blood pressure often returns to normal once the underlying condition is treated.
High blood pressure treatment usually involves a combination of lifestyle changes and medication. Sometimes, lifestyle changes are enough to return your blood pressure to normal levels. These changes may include diet, exercise, and weight loss.
If your high blood pressure continues, be sure to consult a doctor who can prescribe the appropriate medication.