High blood pressure (HBP) is still sometimes referred to as a “silent killer” insofar as most people who have it experience no symptoms. Yet, over time, HBP can lead to coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, kidney failure and peripheral artery disease and other health conditions. The last decade has seen increased attention paid to controlling HBP, on the part of patients as well as physicians. “We think the focus on HBP has contributed greatly to the fact that cardiovascular mortality, which had been consistently on the rise, has actually come down a little bit, as have the statistics for stroke, over the past five years, “says Dr. Lorraine Nardi of Premier Medical’s Internal Medicine division. “In fact, paying attention to HBP has contributed greatly to longevity and quality of life as a whole.”
In Dr. Nardi’s view, “for the vast majority of people, the biggest step in controlling HBP is that people see a physician once a year and, among other things, get their blood pressure measured and followed up on if there is a problem.”
Two related issues frequently arise when a patient learns that he or she has high blood pressure. Patients will say, “I don’t want to be on medicine, once you’re on medicine you’re always on medicine,” Nardi recounts, and they’ll ask about the non-pharmacological things they can do for HBP. “It’s not the nature of the medicine that would require a patient to continue taking it, it’s the nature of the illness,” Nardi explains. If a patient is on medicine and changes in lifestyle lead to a reduction in blood pressure, dosage can be reduced or the medication can be stopped.
As for no pharmacological approaches to controlling HBP, “there are many adjustments you can make to help take care of blood pressure,” says Nardi. “The three biggest things are reducing salt in your diet, increasing exercise and reducing your weight.” All of these approaches can contribute to a mild reduction in blood pressure. However, in cases of significantly high blood pressure, lifestyle changes alone can’t do the job.
“Even when you’ve done your very best to alter nonpharma-cological factors, medication may still be necessary,” says Nardi. “Blood pressure is not just dependent on lifestyle, there is a large genetic component.”