By David Heitz
High blood pressure, also known as “The Silent Killer,” is not to be trifled with.
Last month was National High Blood Pressure Awareness Month. The good news is that medication, along with diet and exercise, can make hypertension a manageable condition for the 70 million Americans living with it (about one in three of us).
Blood pressure is the tension against the walls of your arteries made by blood pumping through your veins. Too much pressure on the arteries can cause them to fail. About 1,000 people per day die from high blood pressure, either as the primary or as a contributing cause, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Many people do not know they have high blood pressure. Thus, “The Silent Killer.” That’s why your blood pressure needs to be checked regularly. Those who consume a lot of alcohol, salt, or who don’t exercise regularly are at particularly high risk for high blood pressure. Some people have high blood pressure despite living a healthy lifestyle, which is why medication is necessary to keep them healthy. But as with all medications, you have to take blood pressure prescriptions exactly as directed. And some people have to take more than one medication to get their blood pressure under control, even with diet and exercise.
Blood pressure generally is treated with one or more of the following: a diuretic, or “water pill,” which rids the bod of excess water and salt; angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, which relax the blood vessels; angiotensin II receptor blockers; beta blockers, which slow down the heart and reduce the pressure on blood vessels on the brain, heart, and throughout the body; calcium channel blockers, which relax large vessels, particularly in the elderly; and renin blockers, which help to widen blood vessels.
According to the American Heart Association, you should never miss a single dose of your blood pressure medication. Nor should you take more than the prescribed dose, as low blood pressure also can be dangerous. It may take a while for your doctor to find the right blood pressure medication for you and the correct dosage. Once your doctor does find the right mix, it’s important to remember to take your blood pressure medication regularly and exactly as prescribed.
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