What is high blood pressure (hypertension)?
Blood pressure is the force with which the blood is pushed against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps the blood. High blood pressure is the condition in which the blood flows through blood vessels at higher than normal pressures.
Many times signs are not observed even if blood pressure reaches dangerously high levels. Only some people suffering from hypertension may have headaches or dyspnea. These signs are not specific and generally, they do not occur until high blood pressure has reached life-threatening phase.
How high blood pressurecan affect your body?
High blood pressure exerts extra strain on heart and blood vessels that can make them weak and damaged. The higher the blood pressure of a person, the higher is the risk of serious health conditions in the future.
High blood pressure can affect the body organs as:
- Heart: High blood pressure can cause a heart It may also result in heart failure.
- Brain: High blood pressure is the major cause of strokes and it has been closely linked to certain types of dementia.
- Kidneys: High blood pressure can cause kidney disorders.
- Limbs: High blood pressure can affect legs by causing peripheral arterial disease.
What are the various medicines used for the treatment of high blood pressure?
Following medicines are used in the treatment of high blood pressure:
- Thiazide diuretics: These medicines acts on the kidneys to help the body in eliminating sodium and water and thus decreasing blood volume.
- Beta blockers: These medicines decreasesthe workload on the heart, causing the heartto beat slower with less force.
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors: These medicines help to relax the blood vessels by inhibiting the productionof a natural chemical which constricts the blood vessels.
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers: These medicines help to relax the blood vessels by inhibiting the action of a natural chemicalthat contracts the blood vessels.
- Calcium channel blockers: These medicines help to relax the muscles of blood vessels.
- Renin inhibitors: They slow down the formation of rennin. Renin is an enzyme formed by the kidneys that begins a chain of chemical steps responsible for increasing the blood pressure.
Are there any alternative medicines for the treatment of high blood pressure?
Diet and exercise are the most suitable ways to reduce the blood pressure but, some supplements can also reduce the BP. They include:
- Fibre, such as wheat bran
- Minerals, such as potassium, magnesium and calcium
- Folic acid
- Supplements or products that act as vasodilators such as cocoa, garlic or L-arginine
- Omega-3 fatty acids
How Omega-3 helps to control high blood pressure?
Omega-3 fatty acids- eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids have an important role in controlling high blood pressure. They control the condition of high blood pressure by reducing the inflammation andthickening of the arterial wall. It also modifies the absorption of sodium by the kidney and changes the transport of calcium and activation of potassium channels by arachidonic acid metabolites which dilate blood vessels.
In older persons and those with high BP (or hypertension), fish oil supplementation considerably decreased both systolic (upper reading of BP) and diastolic BP (lower reading of BP).23
A study has shown a greater fall in both systolic and diastolic BP in men with high BP at risk of heart disease, with fish oil consumption. The men included in the study were assigned to five high-fat (40% of daily energy) and two low-fat (30% of energy) groups. The five high-fat groups were assigned to take either six or 12 fish-oil capsules daily, fish or a combination of fish oil and fish, or placebo capsules. The two low-fat groups took either fish or placebo capsules.24 Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oils improve BP control and may reduce the long-term continuous rise in BP in patients who had hypertension and who underwent heart transplant. The study also illustrated a favorable effect of omega-3 fatty acids on kidney function in these patients.
Omega-3 supplements are advisable for persons who are unable to consume fish or seafood 3 or 4 times per week (as recommended by the Heart Foundation).
Holm T, Andreassen AK, Aukrust P, et al. Omega-3 fatty acids also improve blood pressure control in hypertensive heart transplant recipients. Eur Heart J 2001;22(5):428-36.