Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects more than 100 million people in the United States alone -- more than half of America's adult population. For many who are diagnosed with hypertension, the immediate hypertension treatments offered to them are blood pressure medications, often for the rest of their life.
But is more medication really the best way to manage high blood pressure?
There is another approach that can be just as effective and may even cure hypertension altogether: adjusting your lifestyle. With a clinically minded, realistic plan of action, you can take control of your high blood pressure and with it, your overall health.
At , Robert Todd Hurst, MD and his team are committed to helping patients restore and extend their healthspan – that is, the length of time people live in good health. With a in place, you can treat - and even reverse - high blood pressure and set yourself up for a healthy, happy life.
Keep reading to learn more.
Understanding High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure occurs when the force exerted by the blood against the walls of your blood vessels consistently reads high. This elevated blood pressure forces the heart to work harder to pump blood around the body, increasing the risk of heart disease, heart failure, and stroke. Typical symptoms of hypertension can be elusive, often presenting no signs until damage is done. However, severe high blood pressure can induce:
- Vision issues
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pains
Managing hypertension is crucial because uncontrolled high pressure can wreak havoc on your cardiovascular system, leading to heart attack, heart failure, or stroke. It can also cause kidney or liver problems. The heart, as a muscle, can become worn out from consistently pumping blood against higher pressure in the vessels, resulting in heart failure. Blood vessels themselves may also face damage over time, making them less effective in allowing blood to travel freely throughout the body.
This scenario can lead to numerous health complications. That's why managing hypertension is not just about reducing figures on the BP monitor -- it's about protecting your heart, preserving your healthspan, and ensuring a better quality of life.
What's Wrong With Blood Pressure Medication?
While taking blood pressure medicine is the most common method of managing hypertension, it's important to understand how these prescriptions work. Blood pressure medicines are designed to lower the force that your heart uses to pump blood, thus decreasing the pressure within your vessels. There are several types of high blood pressure medications including diuretics, beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, and calcium channel blockers.
Diuretics help your body get rid of excess sodium and water, thereby reducing blood volume. Beta-blockers make your heart beat slower and with less force. ACE inhibitors prevent your body from producing a hormone that narrows your blood vessels, while calcium channel blockers prevent calcium from entering your heart and artery cells, helping them to relax.
However, each of these medications can come with its own set of side effects. These may include fatigue, dizziness, mood changes, frequent urination, and even erectile dysfunction in some cases. Over-reliance on prescription medication can also lead to dependence, where your body might struggle to maintain normal blood pressure without the aid of medication.
As with any treatment, it's important to weigh the benefits against the potential risks. While these medications can help manage high blood pressure, they are not a cure and should ideally be used as part of an overall strategy that includes lifestyle changes.
Lifestyle Changes: A Better Approach to Managing Hypertension
Lifestyle changes are a viable and effective approach to manage hypertension. Although it can be challenging to make these changes, the benefits to your health and well-being are significant. With patience, determination, and the support of a healthcare team, you can take control of your high blood pressure without relying on medication.
One of the key lifestyle changes you can make to manage hypertension is to pay attention to what you eat. Many people think of salt as the first thing to cut-out. The truth is, adding salt to your food at home adds a minimal about of sodium to your diet compared to processed foods, and most restaurant and fast food places. Dr. Hurst advises cutting out processed foods that are high in refined grains and added sugar, instead consuming a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. This not only nurtures your body, but also significantly lowers blood pressure.
Making dietary changes and a commitment to eat healthy foods can be challenging. It may require you to change long-standing eating habits and overcome the cravings you have. But remember, the goal is not to eliminate all your favorite foods, but to make healthier choices more often. Get connected with our team, we offer guidance and Healthspan coaching for making changes to nutrition.
Physical activity is another crucial lifestyle change that can help to lower blood pressure. Regular exercise makes your heart stronger. A stronger heart can pump more blood with less effort, which decreases the force on your arteries, leading to lower blood pressure.
Even a moderate amount of exercise, such as walking, can make a significant difference in your blood pressure. If you're not accustomed to exercising as a part of your routine, it's okay to start slow: begin with 5-10 minutes each day of an activity you genuinely enjoy, then progressively increase your activity levels as you become able.
Dr. Hurst has found that losing even 5% of your body weight can significantly reduce your blood pressure, as well as your risk of heart diseases like AFib. Losing weight can also help ease the burden on your heart and take some of the pressure off your arteries. By making dietary changes and incorporating physical activity into your routine, you can achieve healthy, sustainable weight loss.
Limiting Alcohol and Quitting Smoking
Limiting alcohol consumption and quitting smoking are also beneficial lifestyle changes. While moderate drinking may not cause long-term issues, too much alcohol can raise blood pressure and excessive drinking can damage your heart. Similarly, despite no direct link between smoking and high blood pressure, smoking a cigarette can temporarily increase your blood pressure, and the chemicals in tobacco can damage your blood vessels, leading to hypertension.
Quitting smoking and limiting alcohol can be challenging. However, there are numerous resources and support groups available to help you overcome these challenges.
Creating Your Custom HealthspanMD Action Plan
While this is our broad advice on managing high blood pressure through lifestyle changes, everyone's situation is unique. That's why Dr. Hurst and the care coordinators at HealthspanMD are dedicated to creating for each patient based on their specific needs and goals.
Our approach addresses all aspects of your health, including nutrition, physical activity, stress management, sleep quality, and medication use. By working closely with our team, you can establish a comprehensive action plan to achieve your health goals and manage your high blood pressure.
Visit Phoenix's Top Cardiologist Today
While prescription medication can be a useful tool for managing high blood pressure, lifestyle changes offer a more long-term approach with fewer side effects. By making realistic, targeted changes to your lifestyle, you can gain control of your blood pressure and extend your healthspan.
If you're ready to take the first step in managing your hypertension without relying on medication, with Dr. Hurst at HealthspanMD in Phoenix, AZ today. Together, we can create a personalized action plan for your unique needs and goals, helping you achieve optimal health and well-being.