Blood pressure is not a constant, there is always some variation depending on circumstances. Such things as exercise, driving through heavy traffic, caffeine and emotional strain can cause significant short term increases in blood pressure. Therefore blood pressure readings should be taken when in a relaxed state and if necessary a device can be worn which can measure blood pressure constantly during an extended period.
Once vascular changes have started to occur symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, palpitations, stroke, blindness from retinal damage, heart attacks edema and kidney failure can develop.
Diagnosis of Hypertension to ascertain the cause
Serial measurements of blood pressure over time, patient history, auscultation, opthalmoscopy, urinary analysis for protein levels blood tests for serum potassium, urea and creatinine together with ECG measurements Echocardiographs and X rays are all used to determine a cause.
Complications of high blood pressure
Heart failure, angina, heart attacks, stroke, coronary artery disease, arrhythmias, kidney failure, hypertensive retinopathy, hypertensive encephalopathy and sudden death are all possible complications of severe untreated hypertension.
The first step should always be to institute lifestyle changes; managing stress levels, losing weight, stopping smoking and drinking, dietary changes, reducing salt intake and increasing exercise are mandatory.
The ideal diet includes; poultry, fish, whole grains, nuts, low fat dairy foods, fruit and vegetables. Fast foods should be avoided as they commonly contain high levels of salt to enhance taste. Similarly sweets and sugared drinks should be avoided and red meats should be strictly limited.
If lifestyle modifications do not reduce the hypertension, drug treatment should be instituted according to the severity of the condition.
In the last few years the body’s Redox (reduction/oxidation) balance has been extensively studied and there seems to be a good argument for looking at supplementation with cell signaling molecules to restore cell health before resorting to pharmaceuticals.
For stage 1 hypertension (140 – 159 systolic) or (90 to 99 diastolic) providing there is no evidence of major organ problems; diuretics, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers and angiotensin blockers can be used alone or in combination.
For stage 2 hypertension most patients receive combinations of drugs until the ideal medication levels are attained.
For hypertensive emergencies, injectable drugs such as vasodilators or adrenergic inhibitors are administered or sometimes oral drugs are used to rapidly bring the pressure down by about 25% without causing renal, cardiac or cerebral problems.
If detected early the prognosis is very good providing treatment is commenced before complications develop.
Ideally of course you should attempt to prevent hypertension in the first place.
Here are suggestions to ensure that you don’t become a statistic:
1. Maintain a normal weight
2. Reduce your salt intake to about 1.5g per day
3. Manage your stress levels
4. Stop smoking
5. Limit your alcohol intake
6. Increase your potassium levels – see your doctor first if you have heart or kidney disease
8. Change to a healthy diet – limited red meat, low fat dairy food, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish, poultry, nuts, limited sweets and fast foods.