Lowering Blood Pressure
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is commonly called the "silent killer" because there are no outward symptoms, and many people never realize they are in danger. Blood pressure is considered high if it is greater than 120/80 mm Hg. Left untreated, this condition can lead to strokes, heart failure or heart attacks. Sometimes, lifestyle changes are enough to reduce numbers. In other cases, doctors also prescribe medications to help patients lower their blood pressure. Either way, high numbers can be reversed. Read on to learn more.
Patients should first attempt to control high blood pressure through lifestyle changes. Maintaining a healthy weight is a good first step because extra weight makes the heart work more. In addition, regular aerobic activity helps lower high blood pressure. The Mayo Clinic suggests 150 minutes of physical activity per week can make a difference. That formula works out to about 30 minutes 5 days a week, and it is something most people can work into their schedules. Eating a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, skinless poultry and fish, while decreasing salt and saturated fat intake is another way patients can work to lower their numbers. In addition, cutting back or eliminating alcohol also helps reduce blood pressure.
When lifestyle changes alone aren't successful in treating hypertension, doctors may prescribe medications. There are many types of drugs used to treat high blood pressure, so it is important for doctors and patients to work together to find the best ones that works for them. Experts agree, after decades of research, that thiazide diuretics, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, and calcium blockers are a good first choice in treatment because they work well with most patients.
Diuretics cause the body to eliminate sodium and water. Too much sodium in the body causes a build up in fluid, which in turn increases pressure in blood vessels. Diuretics can also relax the walls of blood vessels, which makes blood flow easier. Microzide and Lasix, and Aldactone are among common brand name diuretics used to control high blood pressure. Most of these drugs are inexpensive, retailing under $20, with generic forms costing around $5.
ACE, or angiotensin-converting enzyme, inhibitors work by reducing sodium and stopping the body from producing the angiotensin II hormone. This hormone can cause blood vessels to narrow, which increases blood pressure. Lotensin, Vasotec, and Prinivil are just a few of the name-brand ACE inhibitors available to patients. Lotensin retails for about $50, Vasotec sells for about $40, and Prinivil will run patients about $50. Generic options for these drugs cost around or below $10.
Calcium blockers work by limiting the amount of calcium that flows into the heart, which relaxes blood vessels. Some of these drugs also slow the heart rate, which helps reduce blood pressure. Verelan, Dilacor, and Procardia are a few name brands used to treat hypertension. On average, Verelan retails for about $60 and Dilacor costs about $50, but both generic brands will cost around or less than $20. Procardia is more expensive, costing about $90 with generic forms of the drug running about $30.
Because blood pressure can get out of control with no warning, it is important for people to be know their numbers and, if they are high, work at lowering them. The good news is that high blood pressure is treatable and manageable for the majority of patients.