Sunday, January 29, 2012

Which medicines are used to treat hypertension?

  • ACE inhibitors stop the production of a hormone called angiotensin II that makes the blood vessels narrow. As a result, the vessels expand, improving blood flow. Tension in the circulation is also lowered by the kidneys filtering more fluid from the blood vessels into urine. This also helps reduce blood pressure. If your blood pressure is not easily controlled on simple medication, your doctor will probably use a medicine of this type.
  • Angiotensin-II receptor antagonists work in a similar way to ACE inhibitors. But instead of stopping the production of angiotensin II, they block its action. This allows the blood vessels to expand, improving blood flow and reducing blood pressure.
  • Beta-blockers block the effect of the hormone adrenaline and the sympathetic nervous system on the body. This relaxes the heart so that it beats more slowly, lowering the blood pressure.
  • Alpha-blockers cause the blood vessels to relax and widen. Combining them with beta-blockers has a greater effect on the resistance in the circulation.
  • Calcium-channel blockers reduce muscle tension in the arteries, expanding them and creating more room for the blood flow. In addition, they slightly relax the heart muscle so it beats more slowly, reducing blood pressure.
  • Diuretics help the body get rid of excess salt and fluids via the kidneys. In certain cases, they relax blood vessels, reducing the strain on your circulation.
The following medicines are used less frequently.
  • Indapamide (eg Natrilix) is a mildly diuretic preparation that also relaxes the peripheral arteries.
  • Hydralazine (eg Apresoline) relaxes the vascular walls in the peripheral arteries thereby reducing the blood pressure.
  • Methyldopa (eg Aldomet) stimulates the alpha receptors in the brain that relax the blood vessels, causing the blood pressure to drop.
  • Moxonidine (eg Physiotens) is another medicine that acts on receptors in the involuntary part of the brain, causing blood pressure to decrease.
  • Minoxidil (Loniten) relaxes the small arteries so that blood pressure drops. It must be used in combination with other hypertension medicines.

What can I do?

Every adult near or past middle age should ‘know their numbers’ – ie your height, weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
You should also have regular blood pressure tests if there is a family tendency for hypertension. This way, treatment can be started before any complications arise.
Change your lifestyle:
  • stop smoking
  • lose weight
  • exercise regularly – as a minimum, 20 minute sessions, three times a week, sufficiently intense to induce some breathlessness
  • cut down on alcohol – aiming for less than 21 units a week for men, 14 units a week for women
  • eat a varied diet
  • avoid all salt in food
  • reduce stress by trying different relaxation techniques or by avoiding stressful situations.
These changes will lower blood pressure – to reduce your risk of developing the condition in the first place or to treat hypertension.

What factors increase the risk of hypertension?

Anyone can suffer from high blood pressure, but certain factors can seriously aggravate hypertension and increase the risk of complications:

What complications are caused by high blood pressure?

  • Atherosclerosis: narrowing of the arteries.
  • Stroke: haemorrhage or blood clot in the brain.
  • Aneurysm: dangerous expansion of the main artery either in the chest or the abdomen, which becomes weakened and may rupture.
  • Heart attack.
  • Heart failure: reduced pumping ability.
  • Kidney failure.
  • Eye damage.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What are symptoms of hypertension?

Extremely high blood pressure may lead to some symptoms, however, and these include:
  • Severe headaches
  • Fatigue or confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Problems with vision
  • Chest pains
  • Breathing problems
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Blood in the urine

What causes hypertension?

Though the exact causes of hypertension are usually unknown, there are several factors that have been highly associated with the condition. These include:
  • Smoking
  • Obesity or being overweight
  • Diabetes
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Lack of physical activity
  • High levels of salt intake (sodium sensitivity)
  • Insufficient calcium, potassium, and magnesium consumption
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • High levels of alcohol consumption
  • Stress
  • Aging
  • Medicines such as birth control pills
  • Genetics and a family history of hypertension
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Adrenal and thyroid problems or tumors
Statistics in the USA indicate that African Americans have a higher incidence of hypertension than other ethnicities.

What is White Coat Hypertension?

Most of us become a little anxious when we visit our doctors, and "white coat hypertension" is the term for the higher than usual blood pressure often recorded during a routine check. What we now know, however, is that if a doctor's visit begets high blood pressure, so does being late for an appointment, getting stuck in traffic, and getting a phone call from your car mechanic. It now appears that what used to be dismissed as a temporary increase in the blood pressure probably represents a true tendency to hypertension, which should be taken seriously and treated.

What Makes Blood Pressure Go Up? What Happens When it Does?

Blood pressure changes in each of us throughout our lives, and on a minute-to-minute basis. It tends to get higher as we age, and is usually lowest when we sleep. As we go through a normal day, it fluctuates and becomes elevated in response to stress, pain, hormonal levels, meals, and exercise. These are normal responses to our environment. In the disease of hypertension, the blood pressure becomes higher than necessary to maintain normal body functions. This elevation begins to damage the circulatory system, increasing the "wear and tear" everywhere there are blood vessels. The heart, which must work harder to push the blood through a higher-pressure environment, begins to increase in size. The walls of the heart thicken and the heart muscle doesn't relax normally. The walls of the blood vessels also thicken and become stiffer. They can develop damage to the inner lining of the blood vessel, with resulting cholesterol deposits at the places of damage. This process, known as atherosclerosis, can lead to strokes, heart attacks and blood vessel enlargements known as aneurysms.

What is Normal Blood Pressure?

The human heart pumps blood through the blood vessels in a wave-like pattern. The highest point of the wave corresponds to the heart's contraction. The blood pressure at the peak of the heart's contraction is known as the systolic blood pressure. When the heart relaxes, the blood pressure falls, and a lower level of blood pressure occurs, known as the diastolic blood pressure. This systolic and diastolic blood pressure is measured at routine doctor's visits and hospitalizations. If you are told that your blood pressure is 120 over 80, then your systolic pressure is 120 and your diastolic pressure is 80. This is an ideal blood pressure. Hypertension is defined as an elevation in the blood pressure over these ideal levels. The upper limit of normal is now defined as 135(systolic pressure) over 85(diastolic). If either the systolic or the diastolic blood pressure is persistently greater than this, hypertension is said to be present.

Monday, January 23, 2012

What is Hypertension (HTN)?

Hypertension (HTN) or high blood pressure, sometimes arterial hypertension, is a chronic medical condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is elevated. This requires the heart to work harder than normal to circulate blood through the blood vessels. Blood pressure involves two measurements, systolic and diastolic, which depend on whether the heart muscle is contracting (systole) or relaxed (diastole) between beats. Normal blood pressure is at or below 120/80 mmHg. High blood pressure is said to be present if it is persistently at or above 140/90 mmHg.