Medicines are available if these changes do not help control your blood pressure within 3 to 6 months. Diuretics help rid your body of water and sodium. ACE inhibitors block the enzyme that raises your blood pressure. Other types of medicines— beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, and other vasodilators—work in different ways, but their overall effect is to help relax and widen your blood vessels and reduce the pressure inside the vessel. [See also the free government publication “Medicines to Help You: High Blood Pressure” (PDF) from the US Food and Drug Administration.]
Don’t assume that your doctor is aware of these facts. If you are diagnosed with mild, high blood pressure, you likely will be prescribed medication, instructed that it is helpful, and told that you must take it for the rest of your life. But before accepting this potentially dangerous treatment, it may be to your advantage to seek answers to the following questions: “What caused my high blood pressure?” and “Can I remove those causes and reverse this condition?”
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When your heart contracts and squeezes blood out into your network of arteries, the pressure inside those blood vessels is at its highest. This is called systolic pressure and it’s the top number on your blood pressure reading. In between beats, the heart relaxes and the pressure drops. This is your diastolic blood pressure, and it’s the reading’s bottom number.
Eat dark chocolate. Dark chocolate and cocoa powder are both full of heart-healthy plant compounds called flavonoids. Flavonoids are good for you because they cause your blood vessels to dilate, which can help lower blood pressure. Just make sure your chocolate doesn’t have too much sugar. Choose chocolate that is at least 70 percent dark for best results. You can buy individually wrapped chocolate pieces that are the perfect size. Eat one or two a day and enjoy the delicious heart-protective effects.
With age, comes an increased risk for systolic hypertension which can be aggravated by severe atherosclerosis. According to one study, the diuretic chlorthalidone (Hygroton) had significant benefit in elderly patients with systolic hypertension. Along with a diuretic, some calcium channel blockers, ACE inhibitors and angiotensin II receptor blockers may also be good choices. However, beta blockers may not be as effective for hypertension in those over 60; though they may be good choices if co-existing heart disease is present. It also may be preferable in elderly patients to give two high blood pressure medications at a low dose versus one at a higher dose.
You shouldn't ignore the fact that you may have elevated blood pressure readings in the doctor's office but not other places like a health fair, on a home monitor or a drugstore blood pressure machine. This "white-coat hypertension," as it's known, shouldn't be disregarded. A study found that people with this sign of raised blood pressure under stress showed early signs of stiff arteries and an overworked heart that could lead to higher blood pressure later on.
The sweet serves up flavanols that help lower blood pressure by relaxing blood vessels and boosting blood flow. On average, regular dark chocolate consumption could help lower your systolic blood pressure (the top number) by 5 points and your diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) by almost 3 points, suggests an Australian analysis. How dark are we talking? Experts haven't been able to determine an ideal percentage of cocoa, says Vivian Mo, MD, Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California. But the higher you go, the more benefits you'll get.
SOURCES: The Journal of the American Medical Association, May 21, 2003. Aram Chobanian, MD, dean, Boston University School of Medicine and chair of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure. Claude Lenfant, MD, director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health. Edward Roccella, PhD, MPH, coordinator of the National High Blood Pressure Education Program at NHLBI. John Laragh, MD, Cardiovascular Hypertension Center at New York Hospital/Cornell University Medical Center and editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Hypertension. WebMD Medical News: "Diuretics Best for High Blood Pressure."
Another important step is to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight elevates your risk for high blood pressure and many other diseases and conditions. Losing just 5 percent of your body weight can have a significant positive impact on your blood pressure. Studies have shown that the combination of exercising and losing weight improves blood pressure numbers even more than either one alone. It may seem daunting to lose weight, but it is possible. Talk to your doctor about how other people have done it. And consider seeing a weight loss counselor too. You can do this! And after only a few pounds of healthy weight loss, you should start seeing your blood pressure numbers drop.
Yes, exercise is an excellent way to help lower your blood pressure. Of course, before you start any exercise program, be sure to talk to your doctor. With your doctor’s guidance, exercise can be a healthy way to help get your blood pressure under control. Exercise strengthens your heart and makes it work more efficiently. This means it won’t have to pump as hard, which leads to lower blood pressure.
Often, hypertension can improve with lifestyle changes. In some cases, high blood pressure can go down to normal levels with only lifestyle modifications, particularly if you have stage 1 hypertension (systolic blood pressure of 130 mmHg to 159 mmHg, or diastolic blood pressure 80 mmHg to 99 mmHg), or if you have elevated blood pressure (systolic blood of 120 mmHg to 129 mmHg and diastolic less than 80 mmHg).
Spironolactone is a medication that has been used to treat high blood pressure since the 1960s. While there is some belief spironolactone reduces blood pressure, there are concerns due to the potential for this drug to cause adverse effects. The aim of this review was to determine the extent to which spironolactone reduces blood pressure, the nature of spironolactones adverse effect profile, and to determine the clinical impact of its use for hypertension. The search revealed 5 cross-over trials with a total of 137 patients that received both spironolactone followed by placebo or vice verse, in a random order. One other trial was found that randomly gave 42 patients either spironolactone (22 patients) or placebo (20 patients). The daily doses of spironolactone used in these studies ranged from 25-500 mg daily. Studies followed patients for 4 to 8 weeks of therapy. None of the studies reported on the clinical impact of spironolactone (i.e. whether spironolactone reduced heart attacks or strokes compared to placebo). Overall reporting of adverse effects was poor so no conclusions can be drawn about the adverse effect profile. This meta-analysis shows that spironolactone reduces systolic/diastolic blood pressure by approximately 20/7 mm Hg compared to placebo.
“We don’t think, on the basis of our study, that patients should stop taking their antihypertensive medications,” says Naci. It’s one thing to recommend that physicians start prescribing exercise to their patients, but we also need to ensure that the patients that have been referred to exercise interventions can adhere to them and so really derive benefit, he says.
Your doctor may recommend the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, which focuses on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, as well as fat-free or lowfat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils. The DASH plan also limits foods high in saturated fats, including fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, and tropical oils, like coconut and palm oils, as well as sugary drinks and other sweets. (5)
Not only the degree of obesity is important, but also the manner in which the body accumulates extra fat. Some people gain weight around their belly (central obesity or "apple-shaped" people), while others store fat around their hips and thighs ("pear-shaped" people). "Apple-shaped" people tend to have greater health risks for high blood pressure than "pear-shaped" people.
Don’t deprive yourself of dessert just because you’re eager to get your blood pressure under control. A little dark chocolate can go a long way when it comes to lowering those numbers, thanks to its flavonoid content. Flavonoids, a type of plant-based pigment, have been linked to reductions in blood pressure, thanks to their ability to improve endothelial function, according to researchers at the University of Manitoba. Just make sure you’re choosing real dark chocolate for the biggest benefit; foods high in sugar, like most milk chocolate bars, have been linked to an increase in blood pressure by researchers at the New Zealand University of Otago. Reduce your risk of chronic disease even further by discovering and ditching the worst habits for heart health ASAP.