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Treatment of Hypertension: Here's how

Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is blood pressure that is higher than normal. Although our blood pressure changes throughout the day, if one has a blood pressure that is consistently higher than normal, then this could be diagnosed as hypertension.

It is especially important to treat hypertension as it can lead to strokes, heart attacks, heart failure, or kidney disease. Treatment is usually aimed at lowering high blood pressure so as to protect important organs (i.e. brain, heart, kidneys) from damage. This process involves lifestyle changes and possibly drug therapy.

Lifestyle changes

There are many risk factors for hypertension, and some are within the patients’ control. Simple lifestyle changes are the standard treatment for hypertension, as they can help to control and manage one’s high blood pressure.

Reduce sodium intake

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Table salt (sodium chloride) is approximately 40% sodium. The American Heart Association recommends not more than 2300mg of sodium per day for an adult, which is the equivalent of 1 teaspoon of table salt.

Ways to reduce salt in your diet

1. When eating out,

a. Ask for your food to be prepared with less salt or sauces, where possible

b. Avoid drinking soup stock and sauces as they are high in sodium.

c. If you are familiar with sodium-rich foods, you may also choose to eat those in moderation.

2. When cooking at home, a. Use less salt, sauces, stock cubes and other seasonings which are high in sodium. Instead, use natural spices which can add more flavour.

b. Avoid preserved or processed foods

3. When grocery shopping, read the nutrition labels on the food and look out for those with the Healthier Choice Symbol.

Have a low-fat, balanced diet

My Healthy Plate by HPB for a well-balanced meal

1. Fruits and vegetables contain fibre, potassium and other important nutrients which can help one lower their blood pressure.

a. One should aim to have 2 servings of fruits and 2 servings of vegetables everyday.

2. Limiting fat intake - excessive consumption of foods high in saturated fats increases the risk of clogged arteries.

a. Choose lean meats and poultry without skin, and reduce consumption of red meat and full-fat dairy products.

b. Use less oil in cooking and select healthier cooking methods.

c. Refer to the nutrition labels on food and choose those with lower total fat, saturated fat or trans fat content.

3. One can also choose to follow the DASH eating plan, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.

Maintain a healthy weight

If one is overweight or obese, keeping a healthy weight that is suitable for their age and height would be an effective method to combat high blood pressure, and it may also reduce the risk of other health issues such as high cholesterol or diabetes.

It is recommended that a person’s BMI should not exceed 23kg/m2, and waist circumference should not exceed 90cm in men and 80cm in women.

Healthy ways to lose weight include making small changes to one’s diet, such as reducing intake of sugary foods, and leading an active lifestyle.

Regular exercise

Three people doing various forms of exercise

By exercising regularly, one can become healthier and have a stronger heart.

It is recommended that one gets 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity throughout the week, and frequent aerobic exercise is highly recommended. Examples of aerobic exercise include brisk walking, jogging and climbing stairs.

Reducing caffeine

One’s blood pressure response to caffeine varies from person to person, so it is advised to consult with a doctor. However, caffeine does have an immediate effect of raising blood pressure after consumption in most people. Hence, it is recommended to avoid caffeine before activities that naturally increase blood pressure, such as exercise.

Quit smoking!

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Both smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke increase the risk of buildup of fatty substances, which is one of the factors involved in hypertension.

You can quit smoking by seeking help from your doctor.

Reducing alcohol

Alcoholic beverages are usually high in calories, and frequent consumption can cause the heart to pump faster, leading to higher blood pressure. It is important to moderate one’s consumption of alcohol.

Oral medications

Prescriptions may include a combination of more than one type of drug to find the most suitable for each person. The choice of antihyperintensive drug will usually depend on the following factors:

  • Patient’s risk profile
  • Cost of treatment
  • Side effects
  • Drug-drug interactions (for cases where combinations are used, or patient is on separate medication)
  • Patient preference

There are several classes of oral medications:

Table showing several classes of oral medications, their functions and possible side effects Table showing several classes of oral medications, their functions and possible side effects

If the side effects of the prescribed medications affect one’s daily life, one should consult with their doctor before making any changes to dosage or type of medication.

Some medications such as calcium channel blockers may not be suitable for patients with pre-existing medical conditions, so it is very important to check with one’s doctor.

For more information or if you require a medical consultation, please contact My Healthcare Collective here.