Blood pressure is the force of the blood pushing against the walls of the arteries. Each time the heart beats, it pumps blood through the arteries. Your blood pressure is at its highest when the heart beats, forcing blood into the arteries. This is called systolic pressure. When the heart is at rest, between beats, your blood pressure falls. This is the diastolic pressure. Blood pressure is always given as two numbers, the systolic and diastolic pressures. Both are important.
The systolic pressure is the first or top number, and the diastolic pressure is the second or bottom number (for example, 120/80). If your blood pressure is 120/80, you say that it is “120 over 80”.
It is important to take steps to keep your blood pressure under control. The treatment goal is to keep blood pressure below 140/90, or even lower for people with other conditions, such as diabetes and kidney disease.
Adopting healthy lifestyle habits is an essential and effective first step in both preventing and controlling high blood pressure. However, if lifestyle changes alone are not effective in keeping your pressure controlled, it may be necessary to take blood pressure medications.
The following types of medications are available to treat high blood pressure:
1. Diuretics: Diuretics are sometimes called water pills because they work in the kidney and flush excess water and sodium from the body, lowering blood pressure.
2. Beta-blockers: Beta-blockers reduce nerve impulses to the heart and blood vessels. This makes the heart beat slower and with less force. As a result of these drugs, the blood pressure drops and the heart works less hard.
3. ACE inhibitors: Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors prevent the formation of a hormone called angiotensin II, which normally causes blood vessels to narrow. The ACE inhibitors cause the vessels to relax and blood pressure goes down.
4. Angiotensin antagonists: Angiotensin antagonists shield blood vessels from angiotensin II. As a result, the vessels become wider and blood pressure goes down.
5. Calcium channel blockers (CCBs): CCBs keep calcium from entering the muscle cells of the heart and blood vessels. This causes the blood vessels to relax and pressure goes down.
6. Alpha-blockers: Alpha-blockers reduce nerve impulses to blood vessels, which allows blood to pass more easily, causing the blood pressure to go down.
7. Alpha-beta-blockers: Alpha-beta-blockers work the same way as alpha-blockers but also slow the heartbeat, as beta-blockers do. As a result of using these drugs, less blood is pumped through the vessels and the blood pressure goes down.
8. Nervous system inhibitors: Nervous system inhibitors relax blood vessels by controlling nerve impulses, and this causes the blood vessels to become wider and the blood pressure to go down.
9. Vasodilators: Vasodilators directly open blood vessels by relaxing the muscles in the vessel walls, causing the blood pressure to go down.
To find out if you have high blood pressure consult your doctor and have a blood pressure test. The test is quick and painless.
To determine which life style changes and medications are appropriate, consult your doctor.