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 High Blood Pressure

You more likely than not will have high blood pressure at some point in your life.

Whoever coined the old saying that "the only thing certain in life is death and taxes" may want to add high blood pressure to the equation. High blood pressure is a very real concern in this country. So much so, that the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute established The Joint National Committee to gather information on this widespread disease. They have released updated guidelines approximately every seven years since their inception. Findings clearly show that if you don't have hypertension at age 55, you are at a 90% risk of developing it during your remaining years. The key phrase in the previous sentence is "you are at risk". Because unlike death and taxes, developing hypertension doesn't have to be certain. Early detection and treatment can add years to your life and life to your years. The ill-effects of hypertension are preventable.

What is Hypertension?
Quite simply hypertension is an elevation of your blood pressure. The blood that flows through your arteries is kept a constant pressure to assist the the flow of vital fluids contained in blood through tiny capillaries and into and out of your bodies various cells. Your heart muscle contracts giving an extra push to keep your blood circulating through your stomach to gather nutrients and your lungs to absorb oxygen. Resting pressure (diastolic pressure) should be no higher than 80 millimeters of mercury and pushing pressure (systolic pressure) no more than 120 millimeters of mercury, no matter what your age.

Why is blood pressure important?
High blood pressure leads to all sorts of life threatening illnesses, including heart failure, stroke, myocardial infarction and kidney disease. If you are over 40 years of age every 20 mm of systolic pressure (the top number) or 10 mm of diastolic (bottom number) increase in pressure doubles your risk of cardiovascular disease. It's sad because lowering your blood pressure by simple lifestyle changes with or without medications can reduce the odds of stroke by 35-40%, heart failure by 50% and myocardial infarction by 20-25%.

What is the incidence of Hypertension?
Hypertension affects approximately 50 million Americans but that number is growing rapidly. Because of our aging population, sedentary lifestyles and poor diets we are becoming a time bomb waiting to explode. As a disease process hypertension is the most common primary diagnosis in the United States. Because there are no symptoms, often until irreversible damage has been done, it is often referred to as The Silent Killer. According to the earlier study an estimated 30% of hypertension victims are unaware that their blood pressure may, at this very moment, be damaging many of their internal organs.

New Standards
The Joint National Committee has set new standards for measuring, classifying and treating hypertension. Their conclusion is overwhelming that given the simplicity of early detection and treatment versus the devastating irreversible damage that can result if left untreated, EARLY INTERVENTION is crucial. For the first time their standards are clear and leave little room for debate as was common prior to this last committee session. Here are their guidelines:

 Systolic  Diastolic  Treatment
 Normal Blood Pressure
 Under 120
 Under 80
 Yearly BP Checks
 Pre-hypertensive  120-139  80-89  Lifestyle Changes
 Stage 1 Hypertension
 140-159  90-99  Lifestyle Changes + Meds
 Stage 2 Hypertension
 Over 160
 Over 100
 Lifestyle Changes + 2 Meds

Are there factors that predispose a person to hypertension?
Yes, the committee identified the following as factors that may adversely affect your blood pressure:

1).  Controllable factors include:
 a.  Cigarette Smoking
 b.  Overweight
 c.  Physical inactivity
 d.  Abnormal cholesterol levels
 e.  Abnormal blood sugar levels and diabetes
 f.   Kidney and adrenal gland malfunction

2).  Non-controllable factors include:
 a.  Age (Men over 55; Women over 65)
 b.  Race (African and Hispanic Decent)
 c.  Familial History of Cardiovascular Diseases

What are the most common conditions that may result from hypertension?
The following list presents conditions that are attributed directly to hypertension:

     1).  Heart Disease
2).  Myocardial Infarction
3).  Heart Failure
4).  Stroke
5).  Kidney Disease
6).  Peripheral Artery Disease
7).  Diseases of the eye such as retinopathy and blindness

What is the proper management of hypertension?
It starts with early detection. The simplicity and low cost of testing for hypertension makes it easy to spot, which means it can easily be picked up at annual physicals. Most often hypertension is a progressive disease which means a patient's blood pressure rises slowly but steadily. This means that if you discover high blood pressure at your annual physical, it will typically be in the prehypertensive range. With prehypertensive patients we suggest lifestyle modifications, assemble a healthy diet, recommend herbal medications and if you need assistance we can have you work with one of our personal trainers to get you exercising effectively and efficiently. If stress is a problem we offer behavioral counseling or you may want to start one of our classes in guided mediation, tai chi or yoga. If you are beyond the prehypertension classification we will recommend medications but still will encourage you get involved in improving your overall health and learn to manage your stress. The great news is many who started medications were able to stop once they changed their health habits.

The Internal Medicine Clinic at First Health
We take blood pressure seriously. We understand the dangers of ignoring or missing even the slightest elevation in blood pressure. We fully subscribe to all elements of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation and Treatment of High Blood Pressure's latest guidelines issued for the diagnosis, classification and treatment of high blood pressure. We believe in early identification and treatment. We believe routine blood pressure checks should be done at least once annually.

We look for the most conservative treatment available to bring your blood pressure into normal range and keep it there the rest of your life. Because we are multispecialty treatment center you as a patient have treatment options. You have the ability to pick a doctor or therapist that specializes in traditional or alternative medicine. We always recommend starting in our medical department. Our doctors will take the time to render a proper diagnosis, explain your condition, advise you about treatment options, and discuss the safety and efficacy of those choices.

At First Health we've combined a team of professionals, each highly qualified and passionate about what they do. Unlike other treatment facilities and hospitals, you will find a comprehensive and integrative approach to treating hypertension - all under one roof.