Chronically elevated blood pressure is a risk factor for heart attack, heart failure, and stroke, and is one of the most prevalent causes of kidney failure. In most cases, treating high blood pressure begins with a series of lifestyle changes such as diet modification and increased exercise. Such lifestyle changes are not always successful, however, and in these cases medication may be added to the treatment regime.
Answering the question of how to treat high blood pressure is a highly individual matter which partially depends on the cause of the condition. High blood pressure can be caused by medical conditions such as kidney cancer or other types of kidney disease, but up to 95% of cases of high blood pressure have no specific medical cause. In most cases, therefore, lowering high blood pressure is the goal of treatment. In those cases where there is an underlying medical cause of high blood pressure, medical intervention may be aimed at treating the cause, rather than the high blood pressure itself.
Another consideration is the individual’s current lifestyle. For some people, the best way to treat high blood pressure is with a combination of lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise. This is not always the most effective method, however. Someone who already gets plenty of exercise and has a healthy diet will probably get more of a benefit out of medication.
For an individual who has high blood pressure with no underlying medical cause, there are several options for treatment. Before medication is tried, most doctors will attempt to treat high blood pressure with lifestyle changes. Often, the initial recommendation is cardiovascular exercise such as walking or running, perhaps accompanied by a weight loss diet.
Adoption of a diet high in foods to treat high blood pressure, such as high-fiber vegetables, legumes, and grains, as well as a reduction in salt and excess alcohol, can have some benefit. The typical diet suggested is called Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or the DASH diet. This diet includes plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit, as well as low-fat dairy products, and reduced sodium.
When dietary changes and exercise do not achieve the desired result, the next step is usually to prescribe medication to treat high blood pressure. The most common types of medications are ACE inhibitors, calcium channel blockers, and diuretics. Often a doctor will prescribe multiple drugs, as each drug can lower blood pressure by a small amount, with multiple drugs increasing the benefit.