Insane Medicine – High Blood pressure and the new Rules

Insane Medicine - Blood pressure cuff
Insane Medicine – Blood pressure cuff
  • Blood pressure is force that is exerted on your arteries with every heart beat, with the systolic pressure (top number) being the peak pressure the moment the hear contracts, while the diastolic number (bottom number) is the pressure when the heart relaxes. There is always residual pressure in the circulatory system when the heart is at rest due to the elastic, expansile ability of veins and arteries in the cardiac cycle that expand and collapse with each heart beat.
  • normal blood pressure is anything less than 120/80
  • When a person develops high blood pressure, that puts stress on the vital organs inside the body, especially the brain, heart, and kidneys. This increases your risk of stroke, heart disease, and kidney failure. Vascular dementia due to damaged vessels and strokes in the brain results in dementia.
  • As people age, high blood pressure becomes more and more common, with ~70% having high blood pressure by the age of 65-74.
  • There have been recent changes in the blood pressure goals per a recent report by JNC-8.  If you are age 60 or older, any blood pressure up to 150/90 mm of Hg is acceptable, unless you have diabetes, in which case 140/90 mm Hg is the acceptable goal. This new goal has not been accepted by all the medical authorities.
  • The American Society on Hypertension (ASH) suggests that patients age 80 and over should be allowed to have a blood pressure up to 150/90, unless they have high risk issues like diabetes or kidney disease, in which the 140/90 upper limit should be used. If the person is less than age 80, then 140/90 is the upper limit of acceptable and probably a goal of 130/80 should be used if they have poor heart function or kidney disease.
  • Which target should you be using? Ask your doctor, but it seems reasonable to be more aggressive with blood pressure treatment if you have diabetes, kidney disease, protein in your urine, or heart disease.
  • Lowering a person’s blood pressure too low may make them dizzy when they stand or even pass out due to low blood pressure. This is something we want to avoid!
  • First line treatment includes lifestyle changes such as dietary modifications such as reducing salt intake and eating more antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. Physical activity is a key component as well.
  • Have your doctor check for possible secondary causes of high blood pressure such as ‘white-coat’ hypertension (stress in the doctor’e office that goes away when you measure blood pressure at home). Also medications such as prednisone, or over-the-counter agents for colds and cough can increase blood pressure. Have your doctor review your non-prescribed medicines.
  • Have your doctor consider looking for thyroid disorders, kidney disorders, or sleep apnea that can elevate blood pressure.
  • Keep track of your home blood pressure with a home blood pressure cuff that is properly calibrated and used. This can be more accurate when properly done than a doctor’s office single reading of blood pressure.
  • For those who need medications, doctors will start low and titrate medication upwards slowly. There is more evidence that ACE inhibitors or ARB inhibitors mixed with amlodipine ( a calcium channel blocker) are excellent first line therapies. Beta blockers are not in favor for primary or secondary use unless there is some specific reason to be taking them (such as heart disease). Be prepared to take two or even three medicines to control your blood pressure.
  • Again, the best treatments to start with are lifestyle modifications! Lose weight, take in less salt. Consider following the DASH diet!

The DASH diet to help control high blood pressure:  http://dashdiet.org/

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