High blood pressure (hypertension) is the largest preventable and treatable risk factor for chronic disease in the world. More than 85 million people (1 in 3 adults) in the United States and more than 1 billion (40% of adults) in the world have hypertension. It is a major risk factor for stroke, heart attack, heart failure and kidney failure. However, because it rarely produces symptoms, many people don’t know they have it, while many who have it do not control it adequately.
Lifestyle is an important contributor to hypertension and equally important in managing it. In addition, medications are also effective for preventing and treating hypertension when they are properly integrated.
No one wants to hear the doctor say, “You have high blood pressure.” Receiving this diagnosis can seem overwhelming. When I tell a patient he or she has hypertension, it’s often received with a bit of fear, confusion and frustration. Some patients think I am telling them they are tense or stressed, but while stress can contribute to hypertension, the condition is actually an indication of the pressure of blood flow through their blood vessels as well as stiffness of those vessels. Hypertension affects so many areas of a person’s life, including what to eat, how to move, how to sleep and how to manage stress.
The number of people receiving the diagnosis is increasing. New 2017 guidelines from the American Health Association define a normal blood pressure of 130/80 mmHg, down from the previously accepted level of 140/90 mmHg. If these guidelines are widely applied, estimates are that an additional 30 million adults in the United States would now qualify as having high blood pressure. Other organizations, such as the American Association of Family Physicians, however, do not support this number.
To help sort through the confusion, we provided this guide to hypertension. Regardless of the number used, it can help keep your blood pressure under control and your health intact.
It focuses the use of integrative health, a combination of medication, complementary approaches and self-care to manage hypertension and potentially reverse this chronic condition. Just make sure you involve your health care provider in any changes you make.