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Hypertension ( high blood pressure) is called a "silent killer" because most people are not aware if they have high blood pressure. If it is not treated, high blood pressure can cause:

  • kidney problems from renal hypertension
  • blindness from ocular hypertension
  • stroke
  • heart attack
  • death

Systolic blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against your arteries when your heart contracts. Diastolic blood pressure is the pressure when the heart is not contracting. Typically, a person's blood pressure is written as systolic pressure "/" diastolic pressure. For example, if a person's systolic pressure were 115 and diastolic pressure were 65, then the recorded pressure would be "115/65."

In an adult, if measured* blood pressure is greater that 140 for systolic pressure and 90 for diastolic pressure, high blood pressure may be diagnosed. Terms that describe hypertension include

  • "labile hypertension," which means that the blood pressure is variable -- sometimes high and sometimes normal.
  • "borderline hypertension," which means that the blood pressure is around 140/90.
  • "primary hypertension," which means that no cause of hypertension is known. Primary hypertension is also termed "essential hypertension" and "idiopathic hypertension."
  • "secondary hypertension," which means that a cause of hypertension is known.

Lower your high blood pressure. Optimally, blood pressure should be 120/80 or less. If you have high blood pressure, you may be able to lower or keep your high blood pressure down by:

  • Eating fewer foods high in salt and sodium.
  • Cutting back on alcoholic beverages.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Being active every day.

Medications. You may also need medicine to lower your high blood pressure. Some examples of popular blood-pressure-lowering medications are:

  • Atenol® (atenolol) is a leading cardioselective beta-blocker for hypertension, angina pectoris, and other cardiovascular disorders. Beta blockers target nerves in the heart and blood vessels, making the heart pump at a slower rate. The heart doesn't have to work as hard, and because the heart doesn't beat as fast, there is less pressure in the blood vessels.
  • Altace® (ramipril) belongs in a class of drugs called angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. ACE is important because it produces the protein, angiotensin II. Angiotensin II contracts the muscles of most arteries in the body, including the heart, thereby narrowing the arteries and elevating the blood pressure. ACE inhibitors such as ramipril lower blood pressure by reducing the production of angiotensin II, thereby relaxing the arterial muscles and enlarging the arteries.
  • Cardizem CD® (diltiazem HCl) controls high blood pressure (hypertension) and angina (chest pain). Cardizem CD belongs to a group of medications called calcium channel blockers .Calcium channel blocking agents affect the movement of calcium into the cells of the heart and blood vessels. As a result, they relax blood vessels and increase the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart while reducing its workload.
  • Hydrochlorothiazide is a diuretic and antihypertensive. Hydrochlorothiazide manages hypertension either as the sole therapeutic agent or to enhance the effectiveness of other antihypertensive drugs in the more severe forms of hypertension.

What’s Ahead? Because our population is getting older and is also showing effects from being sedentary and overweight, we anticipate that the incidence of hypertension will increase. There will be a growing need to prevent and treat this condition. We will be attempting to provide a useful source of information for staying updated on current prevention and treatment approaches.

In the News

Hour of Exercise a Week Eases Hypertension - Study (August, 2003, summary







*Blood pressure is measure in units of millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). A systolic pressure of 120 mm Hg, for example, means that the pressure in the arteries during a heart beat is great enough to support the weight of a column of mercury 120 millimeters high.

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Disclaimer: The information presented here is not meant to be medical advice nor to act as a substitute for medical advice. Serious side-effects, including death, could result if one were to take any prescription medicine without the supervision of a physician.

Copyright 2003, Thomas Manaugh, PhD