About This Condition
Approximately 90% of people with high blood pressure have “essential” or “idiopathic” hypertension, for which the cause is poorly understood. The terms “hypertension” and “high blood pressure” as used here refer only to this most common form and not to pregnancy-induced hypertension or hypertension clearly linked to a known cause, such as Cushing’s syndrome, pheochromocytoma, or kidney disease. Hypertension must always be evaluated by a healthcare professional. Extremely high blood pressure (malignant hypertension) or rapidly worsening hypertension (accelerated hypertension) almost always requires treatment with conventional medicine. People with mild to moderate high blood pressure should work with a doctor before attempting to use the information contained here, as blood pressure requires monitoring and in some cases the use of blood pressure-lowering drugs.
As with conventional drugs, the use of natural substances sometimes controls blood pressure if taken consistently but does not lead to a cure for high blood pressure. Thus, someone whose blood pressure is successfully reduced by weight loss, avoidance of salt, and increased intake of fruits and vegetables would need to maintain these changes permanently in order to retain control of blood pressure. Left untreated, hypertension significantly increases the risk of stroke and heart disease.
Essential hypertension is usually without symptoms until complications develop. The symptoms of complications depend on the organs involved.
Healthcare practitioners may also recommend lifestyle modifications, such as moderate weight reduction and a decrease in salt intake. Though essential hypertension has no cure, treatment can modify its course and reduce the risk of complications.
Reducing Your Risk
To help keep you in top health, our experts recommend these steps:
- Ponder potassium. Many people understand that too much salt (sodium) can contribute to high blood pressure; fewer know that eating potassium-rich foods can bring pressure down. Find potassium in vegetables, fruit, beans, low-fat dairy, and fish. Select Eating Right, above, for more information.
- Go fish. Omega-3 fats, found in fatty, cold-water fish such as salmon and cod, may bring down blood pressure. If you don’t regularly enjoy fish, a fish oil supplement may fill in the omega-3 gaps. Select Vitamins, above, for more information.
- Minimize medications. To reduce the need for blood pressure medications, move your body more. Regular physical activity, such as brisk walking for 30 minutes daily, is an effective way to bring down blood pressure numbers. Select Medicines, and About, above, for more information.
- Measure repeatedly. One high reading does not mean you have high blood pressure. If you have a few high readings, a home blood pressure monitor can help you figure out if you’ve had a few “false highs,” or if you truly have high blood pressure. Select Personal Care, above, for more ideas on tools for a healthier life.
Living With It
Our experts recommend the following top tips to help support healthy blood pressure levels:
- Weigh your options. Extra pounds can contribute to the development of hypertension, and losing just five to ten percent of your body weight—that’s 10 to 20 pounds on a 200-pound person—will improve blood pressure numbers. Select Eating Right, above, for more information.
- Develop supplement savvy. Along with a healthy diet and regular physical activity, certain supplements, including fish oil, Coenzyme Q10, and pycnogenol—a substance derived from French maritime pine bark—can help manage hypertension. Select Vitamins, above, for more information.
- Mind your medications. High blood pressure doesn’t cause obvious symptoms; don’t assume that if you feel fine, you don’t need to take your medications. Work with your doctor to find medications that work well for you, and take them exactly as prescribed. Select Medicines, above, for more information.
- Take advantage of available tools. To most effectively manage your condition, consider purchasing a home blood pressure monitor. If your numbers begin to creep up, you can take steps to bring blood pressure back into a healthier range. Select Personal Care, above, for more ideas on tools for a healthier life.