Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The Silent Killer : High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

High blood pressure, or medically known as hypertension, has been called "the silent killer", so named because there are usually no symptoms. Many times a person does not become aware of having high blood pressure until they have their blood pressure checked at a health screening, during a physical checkup at a doctors office, or worse when being checked into a hospital. Some of the first signs of trouble may be frequent headaches, dizzy spells, or frequent nose bleeds, however by the time these maladies show up your blood pressure may be seriously elevated. Many people will not exhibit any of these symptoms.

Everyone is at risk for high blood pressure, and if they do not take steps to control it they are at increased risk of heart disease, and stroke. These are conditions that must be paid attention to, heart disease is still the number 1 killer in the nation.If you are aware of a history of high blood pressure, heart disease, or stroke in your family you should have your blood pressure checked at least annually. Better yet you may want to invest in a home monitor and keep tabs on it yourself. If you are being treated for high blood pressure, your Doctor may insist on self monitoring.

Blood pressure consists of two numbers. The first number, systolic pressure, represents the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats. The second number, diastolic pressure, represents the pressure between beats, when the heart relaxes. Normal blood pressure is considered to be a measurement of 120/80, however the risk of cardio vascular disease can start at lower levels, a measurement of 140/90 and above would be considered as too high and shows an increased risk of heart disease.

For moderately elevated blood pressure the normal treatment may be lifestyle changes.

Weight loss, excess weight has been shown to be a significant risk factor.

Quit smoking, smoking constricts the blood vessels and causes the heart to work harder pushing blood thru them, thus raising blood pressure.

Some over the counter medications may raise blood pressure, be especially aware of (NSAIDs), nasal decongestants, other cold remedies and diet pills, if in doubt check with your doctor.

Restrict salt intake.

Limit the use of alcoholic beverages.

Modify your diet to include more fruits and vegetables and lower your fat intake.

Start and maintain a moderate exercise program, at least 30 minutes of activity 5 days a week.

If these lifestyle changes do not have the desired effect the next step would be medication in addition to the lifestyle changes.

Blood pressure medications used to have a reputation for side effects, including inhibited sexual drive. Most of the medications prescribed today, do not exhibit these side effects.

Your Doctor has an arsenal of medications that can be used to treat high blood pressure, and may prescribe one or a combination of medications to help bring your readings to an acceptable level. Medications such as ACE inhibitors, alpha and beta blockers, and diuretics are usually effective. Prescribed medications should be taken as directed, even if you feel fine.

At one time there was a belief that if you were being treated for high blood pressure, and it became known to your health insurance carrier, that you would have a hard time getting new coverage, or that coverage would be at a higher cost. This is not true, in fact if you have high blood pressure, and are being treated, health insurance carriers would view this as positive and likely rate you as a better risk.

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