High blood pressure is commonly known as hypertension is a condition where the blood pressure in the arteries is elevated. Over time the increased force against the arterial walls causes damage leading to problems of heart disease. There are a number of factors that can lead to high blood pressure. These are;
- Resistance of the arteries and smaller blood vessels to the blood flow e.g. stiffness of the arteries.
- Cardiac output i.e. the volume of blood pumped from the heart
- The total blood volume and fluidity
There are two types of high blood pressure;
- Primary (essential) hypertension, where there is no identifiable cause developing over many years
- Secondary hypertension usually appears suddenly resulting from various conditions e.g. kidney problems, adrenal gland tumours, blood vessel defects, medications (contraceptives, cold remedies, pain killers and others) and illegal drugs (e.g. cocaine and amphetamines)
Symptoms of High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure very often does not show any obvious symptoms. Untreated it can lead to more serious conditions e.g. stroke, heart disease and kidney failure. In some cases high blood pressure can cause symptoms such as, persistent headache, nausea, blurred or double vision, nosebleeds and shortness of breath.
Treatment of High Blood Pressure
Typically high blood pressure develops over many years, but once detected it can be managed with medication and life style changes. Diet low in salt, exercise, stopping smoking, losing weight and stress reduction are some of the changes that will help. Conventional drug treatment is depending on the severity of the blood pressure and the risk of developing cardiovascular or kidney problems. These include blood pressure lowering medication, diuretics (to flush out excess water) and beta-blockers to make the heart beat slowly with less force.
Integrative & Complementary Medicine
Acupuncture has been shown in a number of small studies to reduce high blood pressure. A contributory factor would be its ability to stimulate the release of serotonin and endorphins to improve mood and reduce stress, which in turn influences blood pressure.
Nutrition: A healthy diet low in saturated fats and salt, and high in fruits and vegetables will help considerably in lowering blood pressure. Avoid refined and sugary foods and drink 6-8 glasses of water daily. Omega-3 fatty acids such as fish oils will help to reduce cholesterol. Coenzyme Q10 has been shown to reduce blood pressure. Magnesium, green coffee extract have shown some mixed results.
Aromatherapy & Massage: It is expected that blood pressure will increase when faced with physical exertion and emotional stress. Massage and essential oils may be useful in muscular relaxation and dilatation of peripheral blood vessels therefore reducing the blood pressure. Other oils with diuretic properties will help with the elimination of excessive fluids in the system. Useful oils include, ylang ylang, frankinscence, lavender, may chang, juniper and lemon. Overall, stress levels are also improved.
Other therapies include biofeedback, qi qong, relaxation and meditation can benefit to lower blood pressure. Herbs such as garlic, reishi mushrooms and been explored for their potential benefits in lowering blood pressure.
Revised: Dec 2014