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The treatment of hypertension

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Too often, people suffering from hypertension (high blood pressure) do not take it seriously. Did you know that it is a significant risk factor for death? Fortunately, there are ways to treat hypertension so as not to become one of these statistics!

Le traitement de l’hypertension artérielle

What is hypertension?

More than one in five Canadian suffer from hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure. Many people are unaware of their condition, because of the absence of any early signs. And yet, the consequences of high blood pressure are formidable. You can reduce the impacts by adopting healthy lifestyle habits and by taking appropriate medication.

Hypertension is characterized by excessive pressure of the blood on the artery walls. This makes the heart work harder and weakens the arteries. In the long term, high blood pressure is a significant risk factor for several major health problems, such as:

  • heart attack and heart failure
  • kidney (renal) disease
  • stroke or dementia
  • eye problems (retinopathy)

There are many causes for hypertension. Blood pressure increases naturally around age 55. Heredity also plays a significant role, as people with a family history of high blood pressure and North Americans of African origin are at greater risk. Other conditions or harmful lifestyle habits can predispose people to hypertension:

  • obesity
  • a diet rich in fat and sodium
  • excessive alcohol consumption
  • tobacco
  • sedentary lifestyle
  • stress

Diagnosing hypertension

Getting your blood pressure measured is the only way to know if you suffer from hypertension. Blood pressure measurements contain two results, expressed in millimetres of mercury (mmHg). The first number, the highest, is called systolic blood pressure. It measures the pressure of the blood in the arteries when the heart contracts. The second number, diastolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart is resting between two beats.

A person is considered to have hypertension when their blood pressure is higher than 140/90 mmHg. Among diabetics, hypertension is defined as blood pressure higher than 130/80 mmHg. Several high pressure values must be obtained at different times in order for a doctor to establish a diagnosis of hypertension.

Treating hypertension

To treat hypertension effectively, a number of lifestyle changes are essential, and must be maintained even if you start taking antihypertensive medication. Physical activity, quitting smoking, and dietary changes are among the cornerstones of the strategies at your disposal for trying to control your blood pressure without medication.

Medication is usually prescribed when these measures are deemed to be ineffective or insufficient. Several classes of medication may be used. At equivalent dose, they are all equally effective. Your doctor will take into account your age, your medical history, the cost of the medication and potential side effects in order to choose the medication bested suited to you. Do not hesitate to discuss with your doctor any issues that are important to you.

A number of over-the-counter medications, such as certain pain-relievers or cold medications, must be avoided if you suffer from hypertension. Your pharmacist is the designated resource for providing you with information in this area. Don’t hesitate to ask for his or her help!

A few medication tips

  • Take your medication exactly as prescribed, every day. Don’t be surprised if your doctor prescribes more than one; more than one medication is often necessary to control blood pressure.
  • If you experience any side effects, talk to your pharmacist right away. He or she will be able to offer solutions or discuss alternative treatments with your doctor. Never stop taking medication without first asking the advice of a health professional.
  • It is normal to experience some loss of motivation when taking medication for a medical ailment that is not necessarily causing any symptoms. In such a case, it is difficult to feel or notice the benefits of the medication, and you just want to stop! If this happens, speak to your pharmacist, who will be able to clarify the benefits of the treatment in the short and, especially, long term.
  • Make sure to monitor the effectiveness of your treatment, by measuring your blood pressure. This can be done at the pharmacy, or your pharmacist can advise you on the purchase of a tensiometer. This is an instrument for measuring arterial blood pressure. It will allow you to measure your pressure at home, if deemed advisable.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is the medical disorder requiring the most medication in Canada. So don’t feel like you are alone before this silent but powerful enemy. With the right tools, you can control your blood pressure and thereby avoid the damage that hypertension can cause to your health. It is up to you to take the bull by the horns!

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