Along with a hectic work schedule, executives have the constant pressure to stay healthy. But one disease can sneak up with few, if any, specific symptoms. Often labeled “the silent killer,” high blood pressure (HBP) is a growing trend among Americans.
In the 1990s, it was estimated around 50 million adults suffered from HBP, yet today, it’s estimated that number has climbed to 72 million. Simply stated, nearly one in every three adults in the United States now suffers from hypertension, with about one-third unaware they have HBP, and one-third know they have HBP, but don’t have it under control.
What causes HBP? According to the American Heart Association, there is no one identifiable cause. It is usually a combination of factors, including being overweight, not being physically active, and consuming excessive sodium. Both smoking and drinking excessively can increase the risk of heart disease, while stress, age and a family history of HBP can also be causes. Existing conditions such as kidney, thyroid, or adrenal gland diseases, hormonal disorders, and even some medications like oral contraceptives or herbs such as licorice may lead to HBP.
It is critical to understand that unchecked HBP causes progressive damage to the heart, kidneys, and blood vessels. This ultimately leads to heart or kidney failure, strokes, progressive vision loss, peripheral arterial disease and even deadly aneurysms
If you have high blood pressure, there are many ways to get it under control. Often a combination of diet, exercise, medication, and alternate remedies are recommended to help alleviate the root cause of HBP.
Medications are now designed to manage the myriad causes of HBP. Diuretics remove extra fluid and salt from the body to lower blood pressure; beta blockers slow down the heartbeat and relax blood vessels. ACE inhibitors keep the body from making a hormone called angiotensin II which normally causes blood vessels to narrow, and similarly, angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) protect blood vessels from angiotensin II. Calcium channel blockers (CCBs) keep calcium from entering the muscle cells of your heart and blood vessels, and nervous system inhibitors increase nerve impulses from the brain to relax and widen blood vessels.
Alternative remedies may help manage blood pressure, however, be aware these methods must be monitored by your doctor as there are often side effects. One promising solution, CoQ10 supplements, showed a mean reduction in systolic blood pressure in a 12-week trial. The herb hawthorne can reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and fish-oil supplements contain DHA (dacosohexaenoic acid), an ingredient thought to lower HBP. The amino acid L-Arginine has also been shown to lower blood pressure.
A change in diet can quickly lower HBP. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet promoted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health often will reduce HBP within just two weeks.
Adding mind-body interventions and exercise is also essential. Autogenic training and biofeedback techniques for stress reduction and relaxation combined with yoga and aerobic exercise are an important part of the natural approach to lower HBP.
Because HBP is a complex disease, you should work closely with your doctor at EHS Corporate Care prior to embarking on any dietary, exercise or supplemental program.
John P Mamana, M.D.