Treating Hypertension – Conventional, Natural, and Mind-Body Medicine in Lowering Blood Pressure

Hypertension is commonly known as high blood pressure, and affects approximate 1 out of every 3 people in the US to varying degrees. There is no one known cause, although increased age, family history, weight, and stress levels are factors. Usually, hypertension has no symptoms, though some people experience headaches, dizziness, flushing, or nose bleeds. Even though there are often no symptoms to hypertension, it can be a precursor to a number of serious health concerns in the long run if left untreated. Luckily, there are a number of relatively simple things you can do to help lower your blood pressure.

First, a bit about what hypertension is. Blood pressure is measured with two numbers. Say you have a blood pressure reading of 135/90. The 135 is your systolic blood pressure, and indicates the highest pressure in your blood vessels which occurs when the heart contracts and pushes blood through your circulation. The 90 is your diastolic pressure, which is the lowest pressure in your blood vessels occurring when the heart is relaxed.

Normal blood pressure is considered 120/80, pre-hypertensive is 120/80 to 140/90, and anything above 140/90 is considered a diagnosis of hypertension. While everyone has fluctuations in their blood pressure from time to time and depending on circumstances, a diagnosis of hypertension assumes that your blood pressure is 140/90 or higher most of the time.

Untreated hypertension leaves you more vulnerable to a number of health issues including heart attack or heart failure, stroke, poor circulation, chronic kidney disease, eye problems, and headaches. For this reason, it is ideal to catch the problem when it is still early on, and begin changing your lifestyle and/or taking natural or prescription medications to bring your blood pressure down.

There are a number of medications used for hypertension.

  • Diuretics: Used for mild hypertension, helps to get rid of excess fluid and sodium in the body.
  • ACE Inhibitors (Angiotension Converting Enzyme Inhibitors): Angiotensin is a hormone that constricts blood vessels. ACE inhibitors decrease the production of angiotensin to lower blood pressure.
  • Angiotensin II receptor blockers: These drugs directly block the binding of angiotensin to their receptors, decreasing blood vessel constriction.
  • Beta blockers: These block certain nervous system and hormonal transmissions to the heart and blood vessels, relaxing the muscles and lowering blood pressure.
  • Calcium channel blockers: Block calcium from entering the heart and blood vessel cells, which causes the muscles to relax.
  • Renin inhibitors: Renin is a hormone released by the kidney which causes blood pressure to increase. Renin inhibitors slow down the production of renin.

Side effects are common with hypertension medications. They vary depending on which drug or drugs you are taking but include headaches, indigestion, impotence, constipation, edema, fatigue, dizziness, headaches, or drowsiness.

Because of the side effects of hypertension medications, many people would prefer to deal with their hypertension naturally. There are a number of natural ways to improve your blood pressure reading, however if your hypertension is severe, it is a good idea to start off with prescription medication as these will give the most immediate results. You can then work towards reducing your blood pressure naturally by changing some lifestyle habits, and eventually work your way off of medication. There are also a number of natural remedies that can help with hypertension.

Natural Lifestyle Changes That Can Reduce Hypertension:

  • Limit sodium intake to 1500mg per day or less
  • Limit your alcohol intake, one or two drinks max per day
  • Limit caffeine intake as this can cause stress to the cardiovascular system
  • If you use nicotine, do what you can to reduce your usage or better yet, quit entirely
  • Maintaining a healthy body weight is beneficial. Losing weight (link to weight loss) if you are overweight, or gaining if you are underweight. In losing or gaining weight it is important to be patient – expecting overnight results tends to lead to discouragement and giving up
  • Regular exercise, around 30 minutes at least 5 times per week helps reduce hypertension
  • In addition to reducing sodium, a healthy diet for blood pressure avoids eating too many foods with saturated fats, hydrogenated oils, or simple carbohydrates like white flour and sugars. Fresh foods with soluble fiber and lean proteins are helpful, as well as foods containing magnesium, calcium and potassium. The DASH diet is a diet specifically formulated to reduce hypertension and/or cholesterol, and is easy to follow with a number tasty recipes                    

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