High blood pressure is a condition it is accepted many will have to live with. Treatment is readily available, and many sufferers live active lives. One of the keys to limiting the effects of the condition is understanding its more common causes and the types of treatment available.
What Causes High Blood Pressure?
The condition is also referred to as hypertension. Blood pressure is measured by the degree to which blood is restricted as it is pumped around the body. The restriction is caused by what is known as “Narrowing of the arteries.” In some cases, the exact causes are unknown. There are a number of factors that contribute to excessively increased blood pressure. One of these is aging: risks of an individual developing the condition increase with age. Some of the most common and well-known contributory factors to the development of hypertension are:
- obesity and being significantly overweight
- smoking tobacco and using excessive amounts of alcohol
- a lack of physical exercise
- the intake of large quantities of salt
- sleep deprivation over prolonged periods
- a stressful lifestyle
Any of these found in combinations will increase the risks of high blood pressure. There is also evidence to suggest that some people may have a genetic pre-disposition towards hyper tension.
There are medical conditions that can cause hyper tension, and this accounts for the condition in about 1 in 20 sufferers. Some of the medical issues that are known to promote hyper tension are:
- kidney disease and infection
- hormonal problems such as overactive and under active thyroids
This is not a comprehensive list, but it does illustrate how already existing medical conditions can lead to the development of hyper tension.
Some medication can also create increased blood pressure, including the contraceptive pill, medications that contain steroids, some anti-inflammatory drugs (that do not contain steroids), some antidepressants and illegal recreational drugs such as amphetamines and cocaine.
The treatment of the hyper tension condition is most commonly a combination of lifestyle changes and medication.
Lifestyle: Making some simple changes to lifestyle can be of great benefit. Some of these are:
- stopping smoking
- limiting the use of alcohol
- reducing the amount of salt taken with food
- losing and controlling weight
- taking regular, appropriate exercise
- drinking less caffeine (it is found not just in coffee, but also in colas and tea)
- getting regular, good periods of sleep
Medication: The choices of medication that can be prescribed will be dictated by the age and ethnicity of the patient. For those aged below 55 years, the common drug offered would usually be an Angiotensin-converting enzyme blocker (known as an ACE Inhibitor) that relaxes the blood vessels to allow increased circulation with reduced resistance. Angiotensin-2 Receptor Blockers (ARBs) perform the same function as ACE Inhibitors and are an alternative for those who suffer side-effects from ACE medication.
Calcium Channel Blockers widen blood vessels and so assist blood pressure by letting blood flow more freely.
Beta-blockers have become well-known in the treatment of hyper tension and work by slowing the rhythm of the heart so that blood flows more slowly at reduced pressure. However, Beta-blockers are now usually only prescribed when other medications fail.