Treating high blood pressure

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Updated: 4/11/2007 2:47 pm
Most cases of high blood pressure, or hypertension (HY-per-ten-shun), are due to unknown causes. Fortunately, however, the condition can often be successfully treated. Treatment generally depends on the severity of the problem itself. In cases where blood pressure is only mildly or moderately elevated, diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes will often lower it successfully. In such cases, a recommended eating plan usually includes: lowering salt intake, eliminating alcohol, and eating plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products. Sodium tends to cause the body to retain fluids, so limiting salt intake helps the body maintain a proper fluid balance. Fruits and vegetables are rich in minerals like potassium, calcium, and magnesium, that help the body eliminate excess fluids and thus lower blood pressure. Low-fat dairy products are rich in protein, yet do not burden the heart's arteries with excess saturated fat and cholesterol as can high-protein animal products. Physical activity and careful weight monitoring may also help achieve a healthy blood pressure level, since both obesity and a sedentary lifestyle may increase the risk of heart disease. When these measures don't bring blood pressure levels into a normal range or when the level is dangerously elevated to begin with, medications or antihypertensives (ant-i-hy-per-TEN-sivz) can be prescribed. Diuretics (dy-you-RET-iks) generally help remove excess fluid or salt from the body, vasodilators (vay-so-DY-lay-torz) dilate narrowed blood vessels, and sympathetic nerve inhibitors help stop vessels from becoming constricted in the first place. Sometimes, medications can be prescribed to reduce heart rate, lower the heart's blood output, and thereby decrease blood pressure. In most cases, a combination of diet, exercise, lifestyle changes, and medication can prove successful in lowering elevated blood pressure. If you're concerned about your blood pressure or have questions about treating high blood pressure, contact a healthcare provider.

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