Now that you’ve been diagnosed with hypertension what’s next? How do you control the disease and manage the symptoms so that you aren’t at risk for secondary diseases because of the hypertension? This answer depends on what your risk factors are and whether or not you can control your hypertension with lifestyle changes or if your doctor feels you need to take medications along with the lifestyle changes.
The risk factors for hypertension fall into 3 categories:
1) Those you can change: Exposure to environmental pollutants, obesity, lack of exercise, excessive alcohol use, some prescription medications and illegal drugs, diets high in sodium and frequent stress.
2) Those you can control: Congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, diabetes, kidney disease/failure and pregnancy.
3) And those you can do nothing about: Family history, age, male gender, Afro-American and certain nervous system disorders.
Lifestyle changes include losing weight, increasing your activity level, avoiding environmental pollutants such as second hand smoke, avoiding overuse of narcotics and/or alcohol, and watching the amount of sodium, fat and cholesterol in your diet. This also means keeping other diseases and stressful situations under control. If you have any of the conditions listed above in number 2, you should be under the guidance of a doctor who is monitoring your blood pressure on a frequent basis.
If you already have hypertension or lifestyle changes just didn’t help you reduce your blood pressure, your doctor may decide to put you on medications. Medications may include diuretics (helps decrease the amount of fluids in the body by increasing urine output), beta-blockers (helps to prevent vaso-constriction due to central nervous system responses), calcium channel blockers (relaxes the blood vessels), angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors (also prevents vaso-constriction), angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs), or alpha blockers. Medications such as hydralazine, minoxidil, diazoxide, or nitroprusside may be required if the blood pressure is very high, these medications help dilate the blood vessels allowing greater blood flow..