Diagnosis and Treatment of Hypertension

What are the symptoms of hypertension?

Hypertension is often referred to as the “silent killer” because it has no warning signs or symptoms. It is difficult to diagnose hypertension from just a history as the majority of people with high blood pressure have no signs or symptoms even if blood pressure readings are dangerously high. Some people may suffer from headaches, shortness of breath, chest pain or nosebleeds. These signs and symptoms typically occur with life-threatening hypertension known as hypertension emergency.


What happens if hypertension is not treated?

Longstanding hypertension can cause damage to the blood vessels as well as the vital organs. This damage has a direct relationship to the degree of elevated blood pressure and the duration that the blood pressure has been uncontrolled.

Hypertension can cause hardening of the arteries, also known as atherosclerosis, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. It can also cause blood vessels to enlarge and weaken, forming an aneurysm in the aorta or its branches. Heart failure is also a well-described complication of hypertension as the heart is pumping against a higher pressure in the vessels and subsequently the heart muscle thickens and weakens. Eventually the thickened heart muscle cannot pump enough blood to meet the demands of the body and this leads to heart failure. Kidney dysfunction is also not uncommon and can be a presenting sign of uncontrolled hypertension. Narrowed or thickened blood vessels in the eyes can lead to difficulty with vision or blindness. To prevent these complications, early diagnosis is critical.

Your blood pressure treatment goals depend on your age and chronic conditions and this should be discussed specifically with your doctor.


What can you do to prevent or reverse hypertension without taking medications?

For both the prevention and treatment of hypertension lifestyle modification is the cornerstone of treatment. Medications are often needed but if these lifestyle changes are not implemented, controlling blood pressure will be almost impossible. If medications are initially needed to treat blood pressure, it is possible that adhering to lifestyle changes may eventually eliminate the need for the medications.

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Eat a balanced diet. Emphasize a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, poultry and fish and limit your intake of excess calories, saturated and trans fats.
  2. Cut back on salt. There is a direct correlation between salt intake and blood pressure. Aim for a low- sodium diet of less than 1,500 mg/day and avoid adding extra salt to your meals. Throw away your salt shakers!
  3. Maintain a healthy weight. It is important to maintain a healthy weight or lose weight if you are obese. By losing as little as 10 pounds your blood pressure can be reduced by 8-10 mmHg.
  4. Be active. Regular physical activity is important and it is most important to be consistent. Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day has been shown to have a significant effect on blood pressure.
  5. Limit Alcohol. Drinking more than moderate amounts of alcohol (more than one drink per day) can actually raise the blood pressure and reduce the effectiveness of certain blood pressure medications.
  6. Reduce Stress. Stress stimulates the nervous system to produce large amounts of vasoconstricting hormones that increase blood pressure and repeated blood pressure elevations can lead to hypertension. It is important to take time to relax, practice healthy coping techniques and get plenty of sleep.




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