Wednesday, November 02, 2011
ROCHESTER, Minn. — While high blood pressure is fairly common with age and generally doesn't cause noticeable symptoms, it shouldn't be ignored. The November issue of the Mayo Clinic Health Letter covers many options to manage high blood pressure.
Blood pressure is determined by how much blood the heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in the arteries. The more blood the heart pumps and the narrower the arteries, the higher the blood pressure. Left uncontrolled, high blood pressure (hypertension) increases the risk of serious health problems including heart attack and stroke.
Getting on top of the problem typically requires diet changes, increased activity levels, loss of excess weight and, for some people, medication.
Healthy diet: The Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet can help control and prevent high blood pressure. This diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy foods. Other diet strategies to manage high blood pressure: Eat less saturated fat and total fat and lower the amount of sodium in your diet. A goal of no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium is appropriate for people age 51 or older, and for individuals of any age who are black or have hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.
Physical activity/weight management: At least 30 minutes of physical activity every day can help lower blood pressure and control weight. For people who are overweight, losing 10 pounds can reduce blood pressure.
Other healthy habits: Plenty of sleep and good coping skills for stress are important. For women and people over age 65, alcoholic beverages should be limited to no more than one drink a day. For younger men, the recommendation is no more than two drinks a day. Smokers should stop. Tobacco injures blood vessel walls and speeds the process of hardening of the arteries.
Medications: Often lifestyle changes aren't enough to effectively control high blood pressure. Typically, a physician will recommend low doses of two or more blood pressure medications. This approach often works better than a larger dose of a single medication. Several medications that may be considered include:
Finding the most effective medication or combination of medications may require trying several approaches. When blood pressure is difficult to manage, patients may be referred to a hypertension specialist.
Mayo Clinic Health Letter is an eight-page monthly newsletter of reliable, accurate and practical information on today's health and medical news. To subscribe, please call 800-333-9037 (toll-free), extension 9771, or visit Mayo Clinic Health Letter Online.
Journalists can become a member of the Mayo Clinic News Network for the latest health, science and research news and access to video, audio, text and graphic elements that can be downloaded or embedded.
Learn more about becoming a patient at Mayo Clinic in the Patient & Visitor Guide.