Keeping Blood Pressure in Check

Since the start of the 21st century, Americans have made great progress in controlling high blood pressure, though it remains a leading cause of heart attacks, strokes, congestive heart failure and kidney disease.

Now 48 percent of the more than 76 million adults with hypertension have it under control, up from 29 percent in 2000.

But that means more than half, including many receiving treatment, have blood pressure that remains too high to be healthy. (A normal blood pressure is lower than 120 over 80.) With a plethora of drugs available to normalize blood pressure, why are so many people still at increased risk of disease, disability and premature death? Hypertension experts offer a few common, and correctable, reasons:

¶ About 20 percent of affected adults don’t know they have high blood pressure, perhaps because they never or rarely see a doctor who checks their pressure.

¶ Of the 80 percent who are aware of their condition, some don’t appreciate how serious it can be and fail to get treated, even when their doctors say they should.

¶ Some who have been treated develop bothersome side effects, causing them to abandon therapy or to use it haphazardly.

¶ Many others do little to change lifestyle factors, like obesity, lack of exercise and a high-salt diet, that can make hypertension harder to control.

Dr. Samuel J. Mann, a hypertension specialist and professor of clinical medicine at Weill-Cornell Medical College, adds another factor that may be the most important. Of the 71 percent of people with hypertension who are currently being treated, too many are taking the wrong drugs or the wrong dosages of the right ones.

The trick to prescribing the best treatment for each patient is to first determine which of three mechanisms, or combination of mechanisms, is responsible for a patient’s hypertension, he said.

¶ Salt-sensitive hypertension, more common in older people and African-Americans, responds well to diuretics and calcium channel blockers.

¶ Hypertension driven by the kidney hormone renin responds best to ACE inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers, as well as direct renin inhibitors and beta-blockers.

¶ Neurogenic hypertension is a product of the sympathetic nervous system and is best treated with beta-blockers, alpha-blockers and drugs like clonidine.

According to Dr. Mann, neurogenic hypertension results from repressed emotions. He has found that many patients with it suffered trauma early in life or abuse. They seem calm and content on the surface but continually suppress their distress, he said.

- Nytimes.com


Post a Comment

Grace A Comment!